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Alcohol Advertising Influences Teenage Drinking

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Advertisements are designed to entice people into buying and using particular products. Alcohol advertisements tend to glamorize the use of alcohol, associating drinking with having a good time. On the other hand, alcohol companies fail to mention the problems that their products can carry with them, which for young people can be a slippery slope.

Adolescents are extremely impressionable, making them susceptible to advertising more than adults. New research suggests that teenagers are more likely to consume alcoholic beverages that they have seen advertised, ScienceDaily reports. The study is thought to be the first research examining the relationship between brand-specific advertising and brand-specific consumption of alcohol among minors.

The Things We See

Researchers at the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Boston University School of Public Health found that young people are more than five times more likely to consume alcohol brands that advertise on national television, and 36 percent more likely to consume alcohol advertised in national magazines, according to the article.

“Marketing exposure is increasingly recognized as an important factor in youth drinking, yet few studies have examined the relationship between overall advertising exposure and alcohol consumption at the brand level,” says lead study co-author David Jernigan, CAMY director and an associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “These findings indicate that youth are in fact consuming the same alcohol brands that they are most heavily exposed to via advertising.”

Voluntary Alcohol Codes

The regulation of alcohol advertising is primarily regulated by the alcohol industry using a set of voluntary codes. One such code includes not advertising on television when the programming is geared mostly towards teenagers. As one might imagine, a rule like that leaves a lot room for minors to be exposed to alcohol ads. In fact, the study revealed that in 2011, the industry spent over $3.5 billion on advertising in situations where minors were a disproportionate share of the audience, the article reports.

The study’s findings could lead to a major shift in alcohol advertising policies, much like what happened when a link was established between tobacco brands and youth smoking.

“Until research showed the effects of the Joe Camel advertising campaign on what cigarette brands youth smoked, it was controversial to say that a relationship between cigarette marketing and youth cigarette consumption existed,” said lead study author Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. “Once the relationship between cigarette ads and the brands that youth were smoking was established, significant policy shifts occurred as state and federal policy makers took the issue of advertising exposure to youth much more seriously.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.


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