Alcohol abuse among youth is a major public health concern. Young alcoholics below 21 years of age are more often involved in fatal car accidents than older adults. Researchers in the US wanted to test whether alcohol consumption among the youth is affected by exposure to alcohol advertisements and the per capita expenditure on alcohol advertisement.
There are no federal restrictions on the alcohol industry regarding advertising norms. Many of the advertisements are aimed at the youth than the adults. The alcohol industry apparently spends over US$1 billion each year on measured media advertising, such as television, radio, print, and billboards in the USA alone (2005 figures).
AdvertisementWhether alcohol advertisements affect alcohol consumption among the youth has been an issue for debate for long among public health scientists. For this purpose, the scientists short listed individuals between 15 to 26 years of age on a random basis from households within top media markets in the US. Participants were asked 3 questions suggesting the frequency, average quantity, and the maximum quantity of alcohol they consumed. Similarly, the participants also had to disclose how often they came across some form of advertisement related to alcohol over a period of previoust 4 weeks. They also gathered information regarding the advertisement expenditure on television, radio, billboards and newspapers.
It was seen that those who were exposed to more alcohol advertisements on an average drank more. Every additional advertisement saw an increase in the number of drinks consumed by 1 percent.
Similarly, youth in markets where the per capita expenditure for alcohol advertising was greater, drank more. Every additional dollar spent per capita raised the number of drink consumption by 3 percent. Markets where the advertising expenditure per capita was higher saw more growth in drinking among older youth (25-years). The study results showed that the increased drinking among youth can be attributed to alcohol advertising.
According to the study investigators, 'Greater alcohol advertising expenditures in a market were related to both greater levels of youth drinking and steeper increases in drinking over time. Youth who lived in markets with more alcohol advertising drank more, increased their drinking levels more over time, and continued to increase drinking levels into their late 20s. Youth who lived in markets with less alcohol advertising drank less and showed a pattern of increasing their drinking modestly until their early 20s, when their drinking levels started to decline'.
They also asserted that 'seventh-grade alcohol advertising exposure was related to greater beer drinking in eighth grade in Los Angeles, California, and initiating drinking by ninth grade in South Dakota'.
They strongly disagreed with the claims that 'advertising is unrelated to youth drinking amounts and advertising at best causes brand switching, or it only affects those older than the legal drinking age, or drinking is effectively countered by current educational efforts'.
The researchers thus concluded that over a period of time alcohol advertising is a contributing factor to youth drinking.
Source- Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:18-24.