Study Says Alcohol Ads Make Kids and Teens More Likely to Drink

New research published online in JAMA Pediatrics showed that teens receptive to alcohol ads on television such as while watching the notoriously-alcohol ad heavy Super Bowl, were more likely to drink. The study was conducted by pediatrician Dr. Susanne E. Tanski of the Geisel School of Medicine at the Children’s Hospital at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and colleagues.

Surveys using images of alcohol ads were given to 2,541 teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23 in 2011 and 2013. Almost 1,600 completed follow-up surveys. Those under the legal drinking age of 21 were only slightly less likely to see alcohol ads on television than those in the 21 to 23 age group. One in four people older than 21 reported seeing these ads.

Those who remembered seeing the ads and liking them were more likely to begin drinking or to become binge drinkers if they had already begun drinking when they took the first survey. Among teens 15 to 17 in the study, 29 percent reported binge drinking and 17 percent reported hazardous or risky drinking, meaning that they met or exceeded a threshold score for alcohol use.

The study concluded 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, adding to studies suggesting that alcohol advertising is one cause of youth drinking.

James D. Sargent, MD, senior author on the study, said, “Alcohol companies claim their advertising does not affect underage drinking – that instead it is parents and friends that are the culprits. This study suggests otherwise – that underage youths are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing and this prompts initiation of drinking as well as transitions from trying to hazardous drinking."

The full article can be read at http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.3345.