Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in Magazines, 2001 to 2004: Good News, Bad News

Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in Magazines, 2001 to 2004: Good News, Bad News

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:

  • In 2004, youth saw 15% more beer advertising, 10% more distilled spirits advertising and 33% more advertising for alcopops per capita than adults age 21 and over.
  • This reflects a decline of 31% in youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines from 2001 to 2004. At the same time, the number of alcohol ads placed per year fell by only 10%, and adult exposure dropped only 17%, suggesting alcohol companies were able to shield youth from exposure to their advertising without a concomitant drop in their ability to reach the legal-age audience.
  • Only 3% of alcohol ads and less than 2% of alcohol advertising dollars in 2004 were spent in magazines exceeding the alcohol industry's voluntary maximum of 30% for audiences under age 21.
  • In contrast, 42% of ads and 48% of spending in 2004 were in magazines that exceeded 15%, roughly the proportion of youth ages 12 to 20 in the general population age 12 and above.
  • In 2004, 211 alcohol brands placed ads in the magazines analyzed for this report. More than half of youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines came from 22 of those brands, all of which overexposed youth ages 12 to 20 relative to adults age 21 and over. These brands accounted for approximately a third of all alcohol advertising spending in magazines in 2004.

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."

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