MELBOURNE, Sept. 2 (Xinhua)-- A research letter which was published in the August's edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) expressed concerns about some famous alcohol brands promoting their products to the young and potentially underage audience via social network tools like Twitter, local media ABC News reported Monday.
The research team from the University of Western Sydney's (UWS) School of Business studied alcohol promotion on Twitter by seven of the most valuable global alcohol brands like Heineken over six months, a media release from the UWS said.
The researchers suggested in the letter that the Twitter provides another social media channel to promote alcohol, particularly to young adults, the heaviest users of Twitter.
According to the data mentioned in this letter, about 26 percent of people aged between 18 and 29 years use Twitter, which nearly double the rate of users aged 30 to 49 years.
The research found that although every alcohol company's has relatively modest Twitter followers, their promotions were often retweeted to a much larger secondary audience, possibly including those aged under 18.
The study emphasized the example of Budweiser's Twitter activity. The company, which contributes one of the highest selling beers in the United States, sent 286 tweets to its more than 15,000 followers and produced subsequently retweets 13,523 times during the six-month study. "Twitter is a relatively new platform for companies, and what we found is that it seems to be quite an efficient way to promote their wares. In addition to their direct audience, they're obviously getting that secondary audience as well." Dr. Ann Dadich, co-author of the research article said.
And the study also found that the use of hashtags boosted the audience through attaching the alcohol promotions to popular social events such as sports games and concerts. "Alcohol companies'use of popular hashtags is reminiscent of tobacco companies' past practices of associating their brands with positive themes,"the authors said in the article.
The president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) recently expressed concern about the use of social media by alcohol companies, said the study letter. Meanwhile, executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, Sam Biondo, also agreed with this concern."And we really do need to have a community debate, governments need to look at these issues, because it's really, it is having an impact," he was quoted as saying.
The authors thought that the success of settlement of the 2003 World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that already banned tobacco promotion in 168 countries would be the useful reference for alcohol promotion banning. "That framework's trajectory suggests research, public pressure, political will and international cooperation are needed to reduce widespread alcohol promotion and the associated public health costs,"the authors said.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which is the peak membership organization representing the registered doctors and medical students of Australia.