First study to examine relationship of risky content in alcohol ads to youth exposure

The content of alcohol ads placed in magazines is more likely to be in violation of industry guidelines if the ad appears in a magazine with sizable youth readership, according to a new study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study is the first to measure the relationship of problematic content to youth exposure, and the first to examine risky behaviors depicted in alcohol advertising in the past decade.

The researchers examined 1,261 ads for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 different magazines that have or are likely to have disproportionately youthful readerships - that is, youth readerships equaling or exceeding 15 percent. Ads were analyzed for different risk codes: injury content, overconsumption content, addiction content, sex-related content and violation of industry guidelines. This latter category refers to the voluntary codes of good marketing practice administered by alcohol industry trade associations. Examples of code violations include ads appearing to target a primarily underage audience, highlighting the high alcohol content of a product or portraying alcohol consumption in conjunction with activities requiring a high degree of alertness or coordination such as swimming.

"The finding that violations of the alcohol industry's advertising standards were most common in magazines with the most youthful audiences tells us self-regulated voluntary codes are failing," said CAMY Director and study co-author David Jernigan, PhD. "It's time to seriously consider stronger limits on youth exposure to alcohol advertising."

Specific examples the researchers identified in the sample included advertising showing alcohol consumption near or on bodies of water, encouraging overconsumption, and providing messages supportive of alcohol addiction. In addition, nearly one in five ad occurrences contained sexual connotations or sexual objectification. Results also show ads were concentrated across type of alcohol, brand and outlet, with spirits representing about two-thirds of the sample, followed by ads for beer, which comprised almost another 30 percent. The ten most advertised brands, a list comprised solely of spirits and beer brands, accounted for 30 percent of the sample, and seven brands were responsible for more than half of the violations of industry marketing guidelines.

"The bottom line here is that youth are getting hit repeatedly by ads for spirits and beer in magazines geared towards their age demographic," said Jernigan. "As at least 14 studies have found that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, or if already drinking, to drink more, this report should serve as a wake-up call to parents and everyone else concerned about the health of young people."

Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health


  1. Justin Justin United States says:

    This latest report from CAMY is subjective, very biased, and most misleading. The title also misleads because the report doesn’t actually document violations of industry standards.

    The report isn’t about youth-oriented magazines as most people would define them but about those that have as few as 15% readers age 12-20. Those can’t reasonably be defined as youth-oriented, but the authors have to set the bar so low because they would have nothing at all to report. They even include some magazines that, in their own words, they “suspect” may have 15% or more youthful readers!

    It is the two authors, and they alone, who decide not only which magazines to select but also how they will identify which ads supposedly promote drinking alcohol with risky behaviors, promote addiction, are sexual in nature, etc. They decided that an ad describing a particular brand of alcoholic beverage as “irresistable” promotes addiction by so describing it. A couple enjoying lunch and a drink at a picnic bench promotes consuming alcohol with risky behaviors if a river can be seen in the background.

    The authors conveniently ignore the fact that virtually no ads violated the industry standard against alcohol advertising in any magazines with 30% or more younger readers.

    The authors’ urgent call for government imposition of additional laws and regulations are not justified. Federal statistics show that the proportion of those under 21 who drink, binge drink, or who die in alcohol-related accidents on the road have all dropped to historic lows.

    It’s most unfortunate that in a time of severe budgetary crisis, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth $4,000,000 with which it produces such deceptive reports in an effort to influence legislation.

    Members of Congress need to make sure that no more tax money is wasted on the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

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