Youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines decreased from 2001 to 2004, but young people ages 12 to 20 were still seeing more beer, distilled spirits and alcopops advertising than adults per capita in 2004, according to an analysis by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth of 13,738 ads costing more than $1.3 billion. Major findings include the following:
Why the Concern? According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, close to 11 million young people ages 12 to 20 drank alcohol in the previous 30 days in 2004, and more than 7 million reported binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion) during the same time frame. Every day, 5,400 young people under 16 start drinking alcohol, while three teens die from drinking and driving, and at least six more die from other alcohol-related causes, such as suicide, homicide, drowning and falls. Alcohol causes one out of four deaths among males ages 15 to 20 and one out of six deaths among their female peers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alcohol use also has adverse effects on young people's chances later in life. Evidence from both imaging and skills testing has shown that heavy drinking during adolescence affects the development of and levels of activity in young people's brains. The younger one starts drinking, the greater the risks are: those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who wait until they are 21,10 seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash, and at least times more likely to be involved in alcohol- related violence.
Evidence is growing that youth exposure to alcohol advertising plays a role in underage drinking. One recent study followed young people over time in 24 media markets and found that for every additional alcohol ad they viewed over an average of 23 per month, they drank 1% more. For every additional dollar per capita spent on alcohol advertising in their respective media markets (over an average of $6.80), the same group drank 3% more.12 Another recent study used econometric analysis to estimate that a 28% decrease in youth exposure to alcohol advertising would result in a 4% to 16% drop in youth drinking and an 8% to 33% drop in youth binge drinking.
When it examined the issue of alcohol advertising and youth in 1999, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that, "While many factors influence an underage person's drinking decisions, including among other things parents, peers, and the media, there is reason to believe that advertising also plays a role."