Underage drinkers pick brands they see on TV

"The question becomes, what do alcohol advertisers do with this information, given the consequences of alcohol consumption in underage youth?" asks Michael Siegel. (Credit: Mike Burns/Flickr)

Researchers investigated whether exposure to brand-specific alcohol advertising on 20 television shows popular among young people was associated with brand-specific consumption among underage drinkers.

They found that underage drinkers are three times more likely to drink alcohol brands that advertise on TV shows they watch, compared to other alcohol brands.

Published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the report comes on the heels of a similar study by the same researchers, published earlier this summer, which found that underage drinkers are heavily exposed to magazine ads for 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,” says lead author Craig Ross, president of Virtual Media Resources in Natick, Massachusetts, and a recent doctoral graduate at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

“As alcohol continues to devastate so many young lives, youth exposure to alcohol advertising should be reduced.”

In the current study, researchers surveyed over 1,000 youths, ages 13-20, recruited from a national internet panel maintained by Knowledge Networks. All reported consuming at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days.

The researchers determined all alcohol brands the participants had consumed within the past 30 days, as well as their exposure to alcohol brand advertising on 20 television shows they had watched within the past month.

The researchers found that the relationship between consumption of a brand and advertising exposure for that brand was significant, and that the relationship was strongest at lower levels of exposure.

Their results held even after controlling for other factors influencing youth drinking, such as their parents’ drinking, whether the youths chose the brands themselves, the brands’ average pricing, and the popularity of the brands among adults.

Alcohol advertisers

Alcohol is the number one drug among youths and is responsible for 4,300 deaths per year. And yet, the US alcohol industry primarily regulates its own advertising through a voluntary code, which serves as the main vehicle for reducing youth exposure to advertising.

Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, says now that a link has been shown with TV advertising, “The question becomes, what do alcohol advertisers do with this information, given the consequences of alcohol consumption in underage youth?”

At least 14 long-term studies have found that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink—or if they are already drinking, to drink more.

Researchers from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also contributed to the study.

Source: Boston University