A new study has found that nearly 50 percent of American teenagers would rather have a shot of liquor than a bottle of beer.
Teens who prefer liquor are much more likely to indulge in high-risk behaviour, like binge drinking, drinking and driving, smoking tobacco or marijuana and having multiple sexual partners, researchers also found.
The study, which covered 7,723 teens ages 12 to 18 in eight states, uses data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey.
The team found that boys were more likely to prefer liquor and beer than girls, and that teens "graduate" to liquor and beer from malt beverages and wine coolers as they get older. African-Americans and Hispanic teens preferred malt beverages to beer, but not to liquor.
"The number of liquor advertisements on TV has increased dramatically. So it's not surprising that liquor has become very popular among underage drinkers and surpasses beer as the alcoholic beverage of choice," said Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health.
According to him, the type of alcohol teens consume doesn't affect their health directly but the drinking patterns associated with the different types do have a strong influence.
"The study results suggest that youth might initiate drinking with sweeter, more-flavored alcoholic beverages like malt beverages and wine coolers, and that they progress toward harder alcoholic drinks, like beer and hard liquor - and the high-risk behavior," he said.
Siegel said that restricting advertising for malt beverages and wine coolers in youth-oriented media could have a dramatic effect on overall youth drinking.
The study appears online and in the April 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.