Underage drinkers between the ages of 18 and 20 see more magazine advertising than any other age group for the alcohol brands they consume most heavily, raising important questions about whether current alcohol self-regulatory codes concerning advertising are sufficiently protecting young people.
This is the conclusion of a new study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that examined which age groups saw the most magazine advertising for the 25 alcohol brands most popular among underage boys and girls, in contrast with 308 alcohol brands less popular with underage drinkers. Published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, it is believed to be the first paper to examine whether youth exposure to magazine alcohol advertising is higher for the brands they frequently consume.
Alcohol advertising in the U.S. is primarily regulated by the industry itself through a voluntary code; according to the code, alcohol ads should be placed only in magazines where less than 30 percent of the readers are younger than 21.
“Eighteen- to 20-year-olds experience one of the highest rates of excessive alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among all age groups,” says study author and CAMY director Dr. David Jernigan. “This study adds to the growing evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising may be related to drinking and, importantly, suggests a relationship between advertising exposure and consumption of specific brands.”
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 they are already drinking, to drink more. In 2011, alcohol advertisers spent more than 250 million dollars on magazine advertising in the U.S.
In the new study, the researchers used national magazine readership data to identify which age groups received the greatest exposure to advertising for the top brands consumed by underage males and females.