Familiarity with and response to images of television alcohol marketing increases underage drinking

teenA study published in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics has correlated exposure to alcohol related advertising on television among underage youths with the onset of drinking, binge drinking and hazardous drinking. Statistically alcohol is the most common drug used by young people. Sixty six percent of U.S. high school students have reported trying alcohol, 34.9 percent reported alcohol use in the past 30 days and 20.8 percent reported recent binge drinking.

The researchers embarked on this study as companies have claimed that alcohol related advertising has no impact on teenagers. The study consisted of telephone- and web-based surveys with 2,541 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23 years at baseline, with 1,596 completing a follow-up survey.

The questionnaire was designed to test the recall of more than 300 television advertising images for top beer and distilled spirits brands that aired nationally in 2010-11. An alcohol receptive score was designed to test the response based on having seen the ad, liking it and correctly identifying the brand.

“The alcohol claims that their advertising self-regulation program protects underage youths from seeing their ads,” said Susanne Tanski, the lead study author. “Our study indicates that it does not.”

The revealed that a higher alcohol receptivity score among underage participants predicted the onset of drinking, binge drinking and hazardous drinking in the future. Twenty nine percent of participants aged between 15-17 engaged in binge drinking.

“Alcohol companies claim their advertising does not affect underage drinking, that instead it is parents and friends that are the culprits,” said James D. Sargent, MD, senior author on the study and a CHaD pediatrician, the Scott M. and . Stuart Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Geisel, and co-director of the NCCC Cancer Control Program. “This study suggests otherwise; that underage youths are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing and this prompts initiation of drinking as well as transitions from trying to hazardous drinking.”

The researchers recommend revising alcohol related television content and advertising.


Susanne E. Tanski, Auden C. McClure, Zhigang Li, Kristina Jackson, Matthis Morgenstern, Zhongze Li, James D. Sargent. Cued Recall of Alcohol Advertising on Television and Underage Drinking Behavior. JAMA Pediatrics, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.3345

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