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Alcohol Advertising And Youth

Did you know?
  • By the time teenagers reach driving age they will have seen 75,000 ads for alcohol (CQ Researcher, 1992).
  • Results from one study indicate that beer advertisements are a significant predictor of an adolescent's knowledge, preference, and loyalty for beer brands, as well as current drinking behavior and intentions to drink (Gentile, 2001).
  • Television advertising changes attitudes about drinking. Young people report more positive feelings about drinking and their own likelihood to drink after viewing alcohol ads (Austin, 1994; Grube, 1994).
  • Fifty-six percent of students in grades 5 through 12 say that alcohol advertising encourages them to drink (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001).
  • American children view 2,000 beer and wine commercials per year (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995).
  • The alcohol industry spends $2 billion per year on all media advertising (Strasburger, 1999).
  • The beer brewing industry itself spent more than $770 million on television ads and $15 million on radio ads in 2000 (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2002).

Underage drinking
  • 10 million people ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of this number almost 7 million were binge drinkers and another 2 million, heavy drinkers (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 2001).
  • The average age of first alcohol use is 13.1 (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001).
  • In 1999, 52% of 8th graders and 80% of high school seniors reported using alcohol, with 31% of 12th graders reporting heavy drinking (5 or more drinks in a row at least once during the previous 2 weeks (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001).
  • Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism at some point in their lives, than those who begin drinking at 21 (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1998).
  • Between 2000 and 2001 daily alcohol use among high school seniors increased 25%, from 2.9 percent to 3.6 percent (Monitoring the Future Study, 2001).
  • According to the American Medical Association underage drinking:
    • Is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes - a leading cause of death.
    • Contributes to youth suicides, fatal injuries and homicides - the next three leading causes of death after auto accidents.
    • Linked to two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students.
    • Is a major factor in unprotected sex among adolescents. (American Medical Association, 2001)

Alcohol Advertising on Television

Members of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. had been following a voluntary ban on hard liquor advertising on radio since 1936 and television since 1948. The ban was broken in 1996. Since then expenditures for alcohol advertising have increased dramatically, even though liquor commercials were mainly found only on cable channels. However, in the winter of 2002 the first major network, NBC, indicated that it would start accepting hard liquor advertisements on shows airing after 9 P.M.. In a poll conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (2001, December) 68% of the respondents opposed NBC's change of policy and 70% agreed that it was dangerous to have liquor ads on television because young people will be exposed to liquor. Heeding public pressure, NBC cancelled its plans in March, 2002.

The Federal Trade Commission (1999) reported that:
  • Alcohol companies placed their product in 233 motion pictures and in one or more episodes of 181 different television series in 1997-98. In the fifteen shows most popular with teens, eight had alcohol product placements.
  • Alcohol placement has also occurred in PG and PG 13 movies where the primary audience included a sizable number of teens and children.
  • Alcoholic beverage companies have created over a hundred internet web sites to advertise and promote their products. Many of these sites have a strong appeal to youth and can include interactive games and contests.
  • Other forms of promotion include sponsorships of musical and sporting events, displays at retail outlets, branded t-shirts, hats, etc.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (1995, February). Policy statement: Children, adolescents, and advertising. Pediatrics, 95,2,295-297.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, July). Alcohol use and abuse: A pediatric concern. Pediatrics, v108, p185.
  • American Medical Association (2001, November 9). Research and facts about youth and alcohol. [Online]. (last visited 1/29/02).
  • Austin, EW, Meili, HK. (1994, Fall). Effects of interpretations of televised alcohol portrayals on children's alcohol beliefs. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 38, 417-435.
  • Center For Science in the Public Interest (2002, January). Stop liquor ads on TV: talking points. [Online] (last visited 1/18/02).
  • Ibid. (2001, December 20). News release: National poll shows strong opposition to liquor ads on network television. NBC out of step with the public. [Online] (last visited 1/18/02).
  • CQ Researcher (1992, March 13). Underage drinking.
  • Federal Trade Commission (1999, September 9). Self-regulation in the alcohol industry: A review of industry efforts to avoid promoting alcohol to underage consumers. [Online] (last visited 1/16/02).
  • Gentile, D., Walsh, D., Bloomgren, Jr., B., Atti, J., Norman, J., (2001, April). Frogs sell beer: The effects of beer advertisements on adolescent drinking knowledge, attitudes and behavior. National Institute on Media and the Family paper presented at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Research in Child Development.
  • Grube, J, Wallack, L (1994, February). Television beer advertising and drinking knowledge, beliefs, and intentions among school-children. The American Journal of Public Health, 24, 254-259.
  • Monitoring the Future Study (2001). National Institute on Drug Abuse: High school and youth trends. [Online] (last visited 1/22/02).
  • National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (2001, December 14). Alcohol use. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [Online] (last visited 1/22/02).
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (1998, January 14). News advisory: Age of drinking predicts future alcohol abuse and dependence. [Online] (last visited: 1/29/02).
  • Strasburger, Victor C, Donnerstein, Edward (1999, January). Children, adolescents, and the media: Issues and solutions. Pediatrics, 103, 129-139.

Last revised 7/17/02

©2005 National Institute on Media and the Family.