How can the trend toward increased alcohol consumption in teenagers be reduced? The answer to this critical societal question is being addressed by a number of researchers. It is believed that advertising offers a potential explanation for the rise.
In 1999, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission called for the alcohol industry to modify its practices in order to limit underage exposure to alcohol advertising (Federal Trade Commission [FTC], 1999). According to a report by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY, 2002), however, the industry may not have responded. According to guidelines announced in September 2003 by the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, underage youth should not constitute more than 30% of the audience for alcohol advertisements. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Georgetown University recently found that more than 25% of the radio commercials that aired for alcohol in the summer of 2003 would not have been in compliance with these industry's revised marketing codes. Among the airings analyzed, 28% took place when underage listeners accounted for more than 30% of the audience. In 14 out of the 15 largest radio markets, underage listeners were more likely, on a per capita basis, to hear alcohol commercials than people over 21.
CAMY worked with Virtual Media Resources, an independent media planning and research firm, to analyze 51,883 airings of 106 different alcohol ads. The ads aired in 104 markets across the country during June and July of 2003.
A growing body of literature has linked beer and alcohol advertising with adolescent drinking expectancies and behaviors (Aitken, 1989 and 1990; Austin & Knauss, 2000; Grube & Wallack, 1994; Kelly & Edwards, 1998; Martin et al., 2002). Although the advertisers insist these commercials are targeted to adult drinkers, the messages frequently appear during television programs and in magazines seen or read by significant teenage readers and viewers. In addition, beer and alcohol advertisements often use tactics such as humor, youth-oriented themes, and young-adult actors or models, all of which increase their appeal to underage audiences.
Such advertisements most likely have a strong influence on the teenagers listening to the radio. This could especially be true with young girls. In 2002, for the first time, teenage girls were more likely than boys to have had a drink at least once in the past month. To test whether there was a positive relationship between increased advertising and the rise in drinking of the teenage girls, Jernigan et. al measured girls' and boys' exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines and compared this exposure with that of legal-age persons. Alcohol advertisements in 103 national magazines were categorized by year, beverage type, and brand. Placement and readership age and sex data was then generated along with estimates of media exposure for the age groups 12 to 20, 21 to 34, and 21 years and older.
The study revealed that alcohol companies spent $590.4 million to place 471 beer and ale advertisements (8%), 4748 distilled spirits advertisements (76%), 116 low-alcohol refresher advertisements (2%), and 904 advertisements for wine (14%) in magazines in 2001 and 2002. As a result, in 2002, underage youth saw 45% more beer and ale advertising, 12% more distilled spirits advertising, 65 more low-alcohol refresher advertising, and 69% less advertising for wine than persons 21 years and older. Girls aged 12 to 20 years were more likely to be exposed to beer, ale, and low-alcohol refresher advertising than women in the group aged 21 to 34 or women in the group aged 21 years and older. Girls' exposure to low-alcohol refresher advertising increased by 216% from 2001 to 2002, while boys' exposure increased 46%. It is the authors' recommendation that the industry take a serious look at the results of this study and take needed action.
Studies completed earlier on the correlation of advertisements and commercials and youth drinking have shown similar results. Thomsen and Rekve examined the impact of exposure to youth-oriented publications on normative beliefs about teenage drinking, drinking expectancies, and drinking frequency during 30 days among a group of 972 seventh- and eighth-grade students from two Western U.S. states. Three magazine categories were considered: music/entertainment, sports, and men's lifestyle. Structural equation modeling was used to test the direct and indirect simultaneous influences of magazine exposure, religiosity, parental drinking, and the number of best friends who drink on the three outcome variables -- or the normative beliefs, expectancies, and current drinking.
The study resulted in a number of different findings:
Men's lifestyle magazine reading frequency was both directly and indirectly positively associated with normative beliefs about teenage drinking, expectancies that drinking will bring about positive outcomes, and the number of alcohol beverages consumed in the past 30 days.
Exposure to the magazine most frequently read, music and entertainment, was positively linked with normative beliefs that teenagers drink and with drinking expectancies, but not with current drinking. However, this does not rule out the relationship with future drinking.
Unexpectedly, sports magazine reading was unrelated to all three variables. This may be because those who were more frequent readers of sports publications also may have been more "sports-oriented" and thus more involved in club-sponsored and school-sponsored sports activities than less frequent readers. More studies have to follow up on this area.
Of the four factors considered in the models, peer drinking was the strongest predictor of beliefs about the acceptability of teenage drinking, drinking expectancies, and current alcohol consumption. This may appear to weaken the results from the CMYA report. However, it is necessary to consider the realistic possibility that the respondents' best friends who drink may have been influenced themselves to some degree by magazine beer and alcohol advertising.
The researchers suggest that additional studies be conducted to clarify some of the points, focusing on reading motivations, attention to specific content, and the process through which meaning is created.
Studies regarding the relationship between advertising and drinking have also been conducted on specific cultural populations. A Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University study noted by U.S. Newswire explained that alcohol companies placed ads on the 15 television shows most popular with underage African-American youth and consistently exposed underage African-American youth to more alcohol ads than non-African-American youth in magazines and on radio in 2002.
The Center's study is the first systematic review of alcohol advertising directed to the nation's second-largest minority group. Because drinking by African-American youth has historically been lower than other populations, this increase in advertising causes much concern. In addition, it has been recognized that as they age, African-Americans suffer more from alcohol-related diseases than the rest of the population.
In auditing the exposure of African-American youth, ages 12 to 20, to alcohol advertising in magazines and on television and radio in 2002, the Center found that:
Alcohol ads were found on TV programs most popular with African-American youth. Alcohol advertisers spent $11.7 million in 2002 for ads on Bernie Mac, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, My Wife and Kids, and The Wonderful World of Disney.
Compared to other teenagers, African-American youth saw 66% more beer and ale advertising and 81% more distilled spirits advertising in magazines in 2002, and 45% more advertising for malternatives, alcopops and other "low-alcohol refreshers." This means that 96% of African-American youth, on average, saw 171 alcohol ads, whereas 83% of non-African-American youth, on average, saw 111 ads.
African-American youth heard 12% more beer commercials and 56% more ads for distilled spirits than non-African-American youth. Two formats -- Urban Contemporary and Rhythmic Contemporary Hit -- accounted for almost 70% of the alcohol advertising reaching underage African-American youth on radio.
The Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth also found that Hispanic youth in the United States have more alcohol advertising delivered to them than non-Hispanic youth across major youth-oriented media. As with the above noted study, the Center's analysis is the first comprehensive and systematic look at alcohol advertising exposure among Hispanic youth. This analysis compared the exposure of Hispanic youth to that of non-Hispanic youth and found that Hispanic youth were even more exposed to alcohol advertising than the youth population as a whole.
In English-language magazines, compared to non-Hispanic youth, Hispanic youth saw 24% more beer and ale and 24% more distilled spirits advertising in magazines in 2002, and 32% more advertising for malternatives, alcopops and other "low-alcohol refreshers." Further, Hispanic youth heard more alcohol commercials on radio than non-Hispanic teenagers. In the top ten markets with significant Hispanic adolescent audiences, Hispanic young people were more likely to listen to English-language than to Spanish-language radio. Hispanic youth heard 9% more distilled spirits advertising and 17% more ads for "low-alcohol refreshers," and as much beer and ale advertising on English-language radio as non-Hispanic youth.
Also, alcohol advertising was placed on a majority of the TV programs most popular with Hispanic youth. Alcohol advertisers spent $23.6 million to place ads on 12 of the 15 programs in English and Spanish that were most popular with Hispanic youth in 2002, including Vias…