Television Alcohol Ads Linked to Youth Drinking Behavior

First Posted: Jul 30, 2014 06:51 AM EDT

Underage drinkers are more likely to drink alcohol brands that are advertised on television programs, a new study reveals.

The study, led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, revealed that the strong association between alcohol advertisements and youth drinking behavior. They state that minors, who are familiar with the television alcohol ads, were nearly three times more likely to try the same brands as compared to those who could not recall seeing such ads.

The researchers conducted the study to examine whether exposure to brand-specific alcohol advertising on 20 television shows popular among youth was linked to brand-specific alcohol consumption among underage drinkers.

This finding follows the previous study from same researchers who had found that underage drinkers were heavily exposed to magazine ads of the alcohol brands they consume.

"Taken together, these studies strengthen the case for a relationship between brand-specific alcohol advertising among underage youth and brand-specific consumption," said lead author Craig Ross, PhD, MBA, president of Virtual Media Resources in Natick, Massachusetts. "As alcohol continues to devastate so many young lives, youth exposure to alcohol advertising should be reduced."

Alcohol is the number one drug among youth and is responsible for 4,300 deaths per year. Despite this, advertising of alcohol in the U.S. is controlled by the industry itself via voluntary code that functions as the main vehicle for lowering youth's exposure to alcohol and also appeal of alcohol advertising.

In this study, a survey was conducted that included more than 1000 youths aged between 13-20 years and recruited from a national internet panel maintained by Knowledge Networks. All the participants reported consuming at least one drink of alcohol in the last 30 days. The researchers also determined the alcohol brand consumed by the participants in the last 30 days as well as the exposure to alcohol brand advertising on 20 television shows they watched in the last month.

A strong association was seen between consumption of a brand and advertising exposure of the brand. This association was strongest at the lower levels of exposure. 

"There is a link between exposure to brand-specific advertising and youth choices about alcohol, independent of other factors," said study author and CAMY director David Jernigan, PhD. "The question now becomes what do alcohol advertisers do with this information, given the consequences of alcohol consumption in underage youth," added study co-author Michael B. Seigel, MD, MPH, of the Boston University School of Public Health.

The finding was documented in Alcoholism: Clinical and Environmental Research.

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