African-American Youth and Alcohol Advertising

African-American Youth and Alcohol Advertising
Prevalence and consequences of underage drinking among African-American youth: 

• Alcohol is the drug most widely used by African-American youth.1 

• Although African-American youth drink less than other youth (according to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 18.2% of African Americans between 12 and 20 used alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey, compared to 33.2% of whites, and 9.1% of African-American youth reported “binge” drinking, compared to 22.8% of whites),2 there is evidence from public health research that, as they age, African Americans suffer more from alcohol-related diseases than other groups in the population.

• The age-adjusted death rate from alcohol-related diseases for non-Hispanic African Americans is 31% greater than for the general population.3 

• National surveys have found that while frequent heavy drinking among white 18-29 year-old males dropped between 1984 and 1995, rates of heavy drinking and alcohol problems remained high among African Americans in the same age group.4 

• Alcohol use contributes to three of the four leading causes of death among African-American 12-20 year-olds: homicide, unintentional injuries (including car crashes), and suicide.5 


Exposure of African-American young people to alcohol advertising in 2002: 

In magazines: 

• Forty percent of African-American teens ages 12-17 and 35.1% of African Americans ages 18-20 are among the most frequent magazine readers, versus 19.2% and 19.7% of non-African Americans in these age groups.6 

• Youth in general are overexposed to magazine advertising relative to adults. In 2002 youth saw 20% more advertising for all alcohol and 26% more distilled spirits advertising, the largest category of magazine alcohol advertising, than adults 21+. In this context of general overexposure, African-American youth saw even more alcohol advertising in magazines in 2002 than other youth.7 

• African-American youth saw 77% more alcohol advertising in national magazines than did non-African-American youth in 2002. Compared to non-African-American youth, African-American youth saw 66% more advertising for beer and ale, 81% more advertising for distilled spirits, 45% more advertising for “low-alcohol refreshers”8 such as Smirnoff Ice and Mike's Hard Lemonade, and 65% more advertising for wine brands.9 

• For beer, distilled spirits and low-alcohol refreshers in 2002, alcohol advertising in magazines reached more of the African-American underage audience with more ads than it reached African-American young adults, ages 21-34.10 The alcohol industry routinely refers to 21-34-year-olds as its target audience.11 

• While 83% of non-African-American youth saw 111 alcohol ads in magazines, 96% of African-American youth saw 171 alcohol ads in national magazines in 2002.12 

• Alcohol advertisers concentrated the advertising that overexposed African-American youth in 13 magazines accounting for 80% of the exposure of African-American youth to alcohol advertising in 2002, including Sports Illustrated, Vibe, Cosmopolitan, ESPN The Magazine, Jet and Entertainment Weekly. Of these 13, all except Rolling Stone exposed African-American youth to alcohol ads more effectively than non-African-American youth.13 

On the radio: 

• African-American teens ages 12-17 listen to more than 18 hours of radio per week on average, compared to 13.5 hours for all teens.14 

• Youth in general (ages 12-20) were exposed to 8% more beer and ale advertising than adults 21 and over, 14% more advertising for distilled spirits, and 12% more advertising for low-alcohol refreshers.15 In this context of general overexposure, African-American youth heard even more alcohol advertising on the radio in 2002 than other youth.16 

• African-American youth heard 12% more beer advertising and 56% more advertising for distilled spirits on the radio in 2002 than non-African-American youth.17 

• Two formats—Urban Contemporary and Rhythmic Contemporary Hit—with music types including R&B, rap, hip-hop, house, and dance,18 accounted for almost 70% of the alcohol advertising reaching underage African-American youth on radio.19 

• Five markets accounted for more than 70% of African-American youth exposure to alcohol advertising on radio: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston-Galveston, and Washington, D.C. Of these five markets, only Los Angeles did not overexpose African-American youth relative to all other youth.20 

On television: 

• Thirty percent of African-American teens are among the most frequent TV viewers (the top TV-viewing quintile) versus 21.1% of non-African-American teens.21 

• Alcohol advertisers spent $11.7 million in 2002 to place ads on all 15 of the programs most popular with African-American youth,22 including Bernie Mac, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and My Wife and Kids.

• Alcohol advertisers placed ads on 86 programs on BET (Black Entertainment Television) in 2002, but 65% of advertising spending and two-thirds of the ads were on just six programs. According to audience data obtained from BET, youth in general were more likely to see all six of these programs than adults, and four of the six drew disproportionate numbers of African-American youth relative to African-American adults.24 


Alcohol marketing and the African-American community: 

• The marketing of alcohol products in African-American communities has, on occasion, stirred national controversy and met with fierce resistance from African Americans and others. Charges of over-concentration of alcohol billboards in African-American neighborhoods have prompted protests and legislative fights in Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles and elsewhere.25 

• Battles over the heavy marketing to the African-American community of malt liquor, a stronger-than-average beer, resulted in the banning of one new brand, PowerMaster, in the summer of 1991, and fines against the makers of another, St. Ides Malt Liquor, by the states of New York and Oregon, for advertising practices that allegedly targeted youth and glamorized gang activity.26 

• African-American youth culture already abounds with alcohol products and imagery. A content analysis of 1,000 of the most popular songs from 1996 to 1997 found that references to alcohol were more frequent in rap (47% of songs had alcohol references) than other genres such as country-western (13%), top 40 (12%), alternative rock (10%), and heavy metal (4%); and that 48% of these rap songs had product placements or mentions of specific alcohol brand names.27 

• Rap music videos analyzed for a study published in 1997 contained the highest percentage of depictions of alcohol use of any music genre appearing on MTV, BET, CMT and VH-1.28 

Updated July 2005


1J.M. Wallace Jr. et al., "The Epidemiology of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use among Black Youth," Journal of Studies on Alcohol 60 (1999): 800-809.

2Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables (Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies, 2004), table G.25 (accessed 14 Feb 2005).

3A.M. Miniño et al., "Deaths: Final Data for 2000," National Vital Statistics Reports 50, no. 15 (2002): Table 27.

4R. Caetano, C.L. Clark, "Trends in Alcohol-Related Problems among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics: 1984-1995," Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 22, no. 2 (1998): 534-538.

5National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "10 Leading Causes of Death, United States: 2002, Black, Both Sexes," in WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1999-2002 (cited 14 Feb 2005); National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004), 60-61.

6Simmons Market Research Bureau Adult Fall 2002 and Teen 2002 National Consumer Surveys.

7Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003), 4-5.

8Many of the beverages in the low-alcohol refreshers category contain 5% alcohol, more than most beers.

9Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 5.

10Ibid., 2.

11See e.g., Howard Riell, "Half Full or Half Empty?," Beverage Dynamics, 112, no. 3 (May 1, 2002): 8; Rebecca Zimoch, "Malternatives: A new brew rides to the rescue," Grocery Headquarters 68, no. 4 (April 1, 2002): 83; Sarah Theodore, "Beer's on the up and up," Beverage Industry 92, no. 4 (April 1, 2001): 18.

12Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 5.

13Ibid., 7.

14Radio Advertising Bureau, Radio Marketing Guide and Factbook for Advertisers, 2002-2003 ed. (New York: Radio Advertising Bureau, 2002), 8-9.

15Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Radio Daze: Alcohol Ads Tune in Underage Youth (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003), 5.

16Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 8.

17Ibid., 8.

18See e.g., 10,000 Watts U.S. Radio and TV Directory, "Frequently Asked Questions," (cited 20 Feb 2003); TVRadioWorld, "Radio Formats," (cited 20 Feb 2003); Radio and Records, "Formats," (cited 20 Feb 2003).

19Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 8.

20Ibid., 9.

21Simmons Market Research Bureau Adult Fall 2002 and Teen 2002 National Consumer Surveys.

22These are the fifteen prime time, regularly scheduled programs drawing the largest numbers of African-American youth in November 2002.

23Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 2.

24Ibid., 12.

25See e.g., D. Jernigan and P. Wright, eds., Making News, Changing Policy: Using Media Advocacy to Change Alcohol and Tobacco Policy (Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, 1994); B. Gallegos, Chasing the Frogs and Camels out of Los Angeles: The Movement to Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Billboards: A Case Study (San Rafael, CA: The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, 1999).

26D. Jernigan and P. Wright, eds., Making News, Changing Policy.

27D.F. Roberts et al., Substance Use in Popular Movies and Music (Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, 1999).

28R.H. DuRant et al., "Tobacco and Alcohol Use Behaviors Portrayed in Music Videos: A Content Analysis," American Journal of Public Health 87, no. 7 (1997): 1131-1135.