Fewer Young People Exposed to Alcohol Ads in Magazines, but Beer Ads Have Increased

Fewer Young People Exposed to Alcohol Ads in Magazines, but Beer Ads Have Increased

In the United States, most young people begin drinking alcohol at age 13, and every day, more than 5,000 kids under 16 have their first taste of alcohol. With the prevalence of underage drinking, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to look into how many young people are exposed to alcohol advertising through magazines. They found that exposure decreased by 48 percent between 2001 and 2008. In 2003, the alcohol industry voluntarily pledged to not place alcohol ads in magazines with more than 30 percent youth readership.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), and is available at www.camy.org. It found that although 325 alcohol brands advertised in magazines in 2008, only 16 brands accounted for half the advertising in publications with more youth readership. These brands included Patron Silver Tequila, Absolut Vodka, Kahlua, Ketel One Vodka, and Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey.

Despite the 2003 pledge, youth are still exposed to alcohol-related ads in magazines. A previous CAMY report found that from 2001 to 2005, 80 percent of youth exposure came from alcohol ads in publications read by more people ages 12 to 20 than those over age 21. As of 2008, 78 percent of youth exposure to alcohol ads came from these same types of magazines.

David H. Jernigan, CAMY director, said that although it doesn’t make sense to advertise to people who cannot purchase alcohol, a small amount of brands continue to do so, despite efforts to reduce youth exposure.

For the study, researchers at CAMY and Virtual Media Resources looked at 29,026 alcohol-related advertisements in national magazines from 2001 to 2008, measuring exposure to alcohol ads. They found that the number of ads placed by distilled spirits companies (the largest alcohol advertisers in magazines) decreased by 34 percent, and ads placed by brewers increased by 158 percent. Youth exposure to distilled spirits ads fell by 62 percent and exposure to beer ads increased by 57 percent during this time period.

The study also found that overall advertising exposure declined for all age groups as distillers removed their advertising from magazines—exposure for those over age 21 decreased by 29 percent and exposure for those under 21 fell by 31 percent. By 2008, there were almost no alcohol ads placed in publications with more than 30 percent of readers being under age 21. However, the 30 percent standard affected ads in only nine of the 160 magazines that featured alcohol advertising between 2001 and 2008.

Jernigan said that beer ads seem to be filling the gap left by distilled spirits brands, which defeats the purpose of decreasing alcohol advertisements in magazines with youth readership.

Sources: Science Daily, Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads in Magazines Declining, August 10, 2010

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Prevalence of Underage Drinking Fact Sheet

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