Study: TV Liquor, Beer Ads, Dangerous to Teens

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Television ads for alcohol-with their portrayals of good times and cool people -- are reaching adolescents and likely having a negative effect on their behavior, a Dartmouth research team has found. Adolescents were tested on their ability to identify brand names when viewing ads for beer and liquor that had been stripped of logos. Those who were best at doing that were later found to be more likely to engage in underage drinking and binge-drinking, the team found.

Television ads for alcohol—with their portrayals of good times and cool people--are reaching adolescents and likely having a negative effect on their behavior, a Dartmouth research team has found.

Reporting in JAMA Pediatrics Susanne Tanski, MD and colleagues at Dartmouth Medical College and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that when asked to name the advertisers of 351 nationally aired ads for 41 brands of beer and distilled spirits, under-age participants were only slightly less likely than people of legal age to recognize the brand names and say they liked the ads. The participants were 15 to 23 years old. The ads were stripped of logos.

Based on their responses to telephone- and web-based surveys, these adolescents were first rated on their “receptivity” to the ads. The surveys were done 2 years apart. The second survey tracked their behaviors toward alcohol as they got older.

Those with higher scores were found more likely to try alcohol earlier and engage in binge drinking and hazardous drinking.

“The effects are specific to the messaging contained in alcohol advertising,” Tanski wrote.

The results were also independent of alcohol use among friends and parent. “Parental drinking was less robustly associated with drinking than was marketing,” the team found.

The alcoholic beverage industry and television industry face few restrictions in marketing to adolescents, Tanski noted.

“The industry standard directs the alcohol industry to aim for programs where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonable expected to be 21 years or older,” but that does not prevent teens from seeing the ads.

“In contrast to cigarette companies, which voluntarily ended television advertising in 1969, alcohol continues to be actively marketed on television,” she wrote.

According to James Sargent, MD, a co-author of the study, the research built on an earlier study by the team. As part of that work they found which brands were most popular with teens who were underaged drinkers

Asked to name their favorite brand of liquor or beer, girls in the earlier study favored Smirnoff, Budweiser, Corona, Grey Goose, Bacardi , Captain Morgan, Coors, Skyy, Miller, and Absolut, in that order.

For boys, the favorites were Budweiser, Smirnoff, Coors, Corona, Miller, Captain Morgan, Heineken, Grey Goose, Jack Daniel's, and Bacardi. in that order.

To choose the ads to use to test subjects' ad receptivity in the JAMA Pediatrics study, the team ranked products by ad spending.

For hard liquor, the ads on which manufacters spent the most were Absolut, Patron, Jose Cuervo, Ketel One, Bacardi, Crown Royal, Jack Daniel’s, Grey Goose, Captain Morgan and Belvedere.

The biggest spending on ads for beer were for Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Miller Chill, Heineken, Corona Extra, Bud Light Lime, Corona Light, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

All of the brands favored by the underaged drinkers were heavily advertised, the combined results of the two studies show.

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