The Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) has issued a statement distancing the industry from statements appearing in the media recently attributed to an "industry insider", which suggested that ready to drink (RTD) products are targeting teen drinkers.

DSICA said today (8 August) that the claim had originated from a trade journal in which a "media planning agency" had made "colourful" comments. The article had claimed that RTDs are aimed at the "binge-drinker category of young people on a budget who want to get drunk very quickly".

"These claims are not attributable to the alcohol industry, but are comments from an individual in the advertising industry," the DSICA said.

The organisation said its executive director, Gordon Broderick, "strongly refutes the suggestion that the drinks industry is targeting underage drinkers with RTD products".

With respect to higher-strength RTDs also mentioned in the article, Broderick noted that these make up a small proportion of the RTD market and are usually premium products aimed at the mature palate. DSICA also pointed out that the excise arrangements for these products ensure that they are taxed at a higher level than lower-strength RTDs, making them less affordable for younger drinkers.

"The industry takes its responsibility to minimise risky and underage drinking very seriously" Broderick said. "A central focus of the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code is to prevent advertisements that encourage underage drinking and excessive consumption or abuse of alcohol. This code works effectively and will soon extend to products and packaging. The industry also contributes around $10m per annum to DrinkWise Australia, an independent body whose mission is to change Australia's drinking culture to maximise the benefits and minimise the harms from alcohol consumption."

Broderick also stated that there is "no link whatsoever between RTDs and levels of underage drinking", adding that according to several government studies, underage drinking levels have plateaued or have declined in recent years.

"It appears that RTDs as a category are being used as a scapegoat by some to deflect attention from responsible parenting and individual responsibility," Broderick concluded.