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December 17, 2010

UPDATE: Alcohol ads seen by more youths

Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on TV increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to a new report from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Alcohol companies are supposed to be self-regulating, but the number of ads seen by American kids on TV increased from 217 to 366 in that time frame – or an ad a day, the study shows.

“One a day is great for vitamins but not for young people being exposed to alcohol advertising,” said David H. Jernigan, the center director, in a statement. “This is a significant and troubling escalation, and shows the ineffectiveness of the industry’s current voluntary standards.”

The Distilled Spirits Council responded by saying that the report is misleading and biased. The industry is serious in its opposition to underage drinking, and research shows its advertising isn't making that problem worse.

"CAMY Director David Jernigan’s conclusion that the '[i]ndustry standards need to be tightened to protect youth from alcohol marketing' ignores the fact that while advertising on cable television increased from 2001-2009, the latest federal government statistics released yesterday show that alcohol consumption rates among 8th, 10th and 12th graders have continuously declined during this same period and are at historic lows," the group said. 

"Simply put, CAMY’s claim that an increase in alcohol advertising is causing teens to drink is undercut by the federal government data and unsupported by the body of scientific literature.

The CAMY report says youth drinking is still a real problem -- and the industry isn't living up to its promises. The beer, distilled spirits and wine industries had agreed in 2003 to place ads only when the percent of underage kids watching was 30 percent or less. That was down from 50 percent. 

Ads for spirits on cable is driving the increase, the report said. The youth exposure there is up 3,000 percent, the report said.

Virtual Media Resources, an advertising research firm, did the analysis and found there were nearly 2.7 million ads placed by alcohol companies in that 8-year window. The industry paid about $8 billion for them.

The center reports that alcohol is the leading drug problem among kids. Some 4,600 deaths a year are alcohol related. Last year, 10.4 million, or more than a quarter, of American kids 12-20 reported drinking in the past month. Long-term studies show that exposure to alcohol ads and marketing increases the likelihood that kids will start drinking or consume more alcohol.

The stats have led some officials at the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine to lower the advertising standard to 15 percent from 30. The Federal Trade Commission reportedly asked the industry to lower it to 25 percent, but the industry refused.

“Alcohol companies have stepped up their advertising efforts on television—particularly on cable networks—and the result is an alarming hike in youth exposure,” said Jernigan. “Industry standards need to be tightened to protect youth from alcohol marketing.”

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:39 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Business of health


The industry tactics to increase revenue share by targeting youth are despicable. Anyone who watches cable TV can see the growth of distilled spirits advertising, it is impossible to hide from it. Clearly the alcohol industry voluntary standards allow for too great a level of youth exposure and their pitiful attempts to self-regulate a sham. Enough is enough. Congrats to CAMY for their work in exposing this mess.

I agree that the industry's current voluntary standards are ineffective and I strongly support lowering the advertising standard to 15%. If the alcohol beverage industry was serious about preventing and reducing underage drinking they would lower it instead of spending a billion dollars per year on advertising.

Youth exposure to alcohol advertising DOES increase the risk for our youth. I have witnessed this both personally and professionally. Anything that we can do to protect our youth must be done.

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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