Teens drawn to heavily advertised alcohol brands, researchers say

Underage drinkers tend to reach for brands of alcohol that are heavily advertised in the magazines they read, according to a new study.

Lead study researcher Craig Ross, Ph.D., M.B.A., of the Natick, Mass.,-based Virtual Media Resources and colleagues found evidence to suggest that advertisements for specific alcohol brands encourage underaged kids to drink. They also found that the industry’s self-imposed advertising guidelines are insufficient. It was therefore of no surprise to find that all the alcohol ads were in compliance of such guidelines.

Ross and his colleagues from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Boston University School of Public Health analyzed advertisements for alcoholic beverages that were featured in magazines in 2011 in the U.S. They discovered that the top 25 alcohol brands that young people under the legal drinking age regularly consume were more effective in reaching these young readers, compared to other brands that tend to be less popular among the younger crowd.

According to a 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 25 percent of youth between the ages of 12 to 20 drink alcohol, and 16 percent admit to binge drinking.

Ross encourages parents to keep the dialogue open with their children about the dangers and consequences of overconsumption of alcohol, especially at young ages.

“Parents should take note that scientific evidence is growing that exposure to alcohol advertising promotes drinking initiation,” he noted, “and is likely to increase the frequency of consumption for kids already drinking,” Ross said in a statement.

The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.