Alcohol Ads and Effects on Youth
Using a survey from 2011, Dr. Auden McClure (Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center) led a study in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It revealed that over half of underage youth may have viewed alcohol ads on the Internet. Less, however, admit to becoming engaged or following such brands online.
Including in the survey were 2,000 young people, from 15-20 years of age. Those who participated recounted their visits to alcohol-related websites, and whether they liked or followed popular brands such as Bacardi or Captain Morgan.
In addition to the nearly 60% of youth who had seen alcohol ads online, 13% said they recognized at least one brand, 6% had visited a website, and 3% became a fan online.
Follow-Up on Alcohol Ads
A follow-up was performed in one year, and 75% the original participants returned. This time, however, they reported on their drinking and binge-drinking habits. By this time, over half of the youth stated that they had experience drinking. Another 27% admitted to binge drinking.
The results? Persons who were exposed to some level of alcohol ads online were 80% more likely to have engaged in binge drinking. Factors contributing to alcohol marketing reception included Internet use, and having friends or family who engaged in alcohol consumption as well.
Another study was published in the Alcohol and Alcoholism journal discovered that certain Internet accounts (Twitter and Instagram) created for underaged youth could still engaged with alcohol ads.
A 2013 study published in Pediatrics found that younger teens tended to be especially susceptible to alcohol ads broadcast on television commercials. A positive reaction to the ads and amount of exposure influenced some adolescents to drink more and experience future alcohol-related problems. The study consisted of nearly 3,900 students who were surveyed annually over 4 years (7th-10th grade). In addition to above factors, other variables such as socioeconomic status and alcohol use among family and peers were included.
In general, most past and present research has found that youth exposure to alcohol ads in many media forms was related to higher alcohol consumption.
It is very difficult for alcohol brands to monitor the age of their fans online. Indeed, it’s not the only non-parental approved subject that youth encounter on a daily basis. Consider the ubiquity of porn, violence, and the meeting of random people in chat rooms. Websites can require persons to state their age upon entry, but that is by no means an effective method. The Internet is about anonymity, and that also applies to youth in many cases.
Self-regulation, as often imposed by alcohol manufacturers, just doesn’t work that well. Parents are encouraged to educated their children on the realities of alcohol use and abuse. Impressionable youth need to understand that advertising is about glamorization, and not necessarily about truth.