January 22, 2015

Exposure to TV Alcohol Advertising Linked to Underage Drinking

Medical News Today reported about a study that examines how exposure to alcohol ads on television is linked to binge and underage drinking.

Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, NH, investigated the link in a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.

Alcohol is the most common drug among youth and a major contributor to morbidity and mortality worldwide. Billions of dollars are spent annually marketing alcohol, according to the article’s online abstract.

In the United States alone, notes the study, producers of alcoholic beverages spent $3.45 billion on advertising in 2011.

The Dartmouth researchers used telephone- and web-based surveys conducted in 2011 and 2013 to assess the extent to which TV advertising influences drinking behaviors among underage young people. The participants in the study were between 15 and 23 years, and 2,541 adolescents were surveyed at the start of the study, 1,596 of which also contributed to a follow-up survey.

The surveys examined the participants’ recall of TV advertisements for alcohol products that were broadcast during 2010-11. Based on whether a participant had seen an ad, liked it and correctly identified the brand, the researchers calculated what they called an “alcohol receptivity score.”

The authors found that a higher “alcohol receptivity score” was linked with the onset of drinking, binge drinking and risky drinking among underage participants.

The study determined that underage participants were only slightly less likely than participants of legal drinking age to have seen TV ads for alcohol:

• 23.4 percent of 15-17-year-olds had seen alcohol ads; as had
• 22.7 percent of 18-20-year-olds; and
• 25.6 percent of 21-23-year-olds.

“Our study found that familiarity with and response to images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults,” wrote the authors, “adding to studies suggesting that alcohol advertising is one cause of youth drinking.”

They concluded that current self-regulatory standards for televised alcohol advertising appear to inadequately protect underage youth from exposure to televised alcohol advertising and its effect on behavior.

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