TV Alcohol Ads & Teens

Alcohol abuse can start at a young age especially with constant TV ads promoting drinking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Underage drinking is a serious problem in America. Kids are getting hurt and starting bad habits at an early age. TV ads aren’t helping matters by putting alcohol in the thoughts of anyone watching.

A recent study looks into the numbers of alcohol ad recognition and drinking rates in teens. The results are sobering.

"Talk to your kids about the realities of illegal drinking."

Dr. Susanne E. Tanski, MD., Fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, led a team to evaluate the role of TV advertisements in underage drinking.

Data collected from 2,012 kids in the U.S. aged 15-20 in 2010 from randomized telephone and internet surveys were the foundation for this study. The study design categorized the kids based on their age, gender, race/ethnicity, and their environmental exposure to alcohol (do their parents drink and how many of their friends drink); and finally if they tended to participate in ‘sensation seeking’ activities.

Preliminary results determined that 59 percent of the participants had ever drank alcohol and of that group 49 percent had binge drank (drank more than six drinks in one sitting).

The next step was to figure out the kids’ exposure to advertisements. Researchers took nationally aired television ads for the top 20 beer and hard alcohol ads from 2009 and removed the logos and product images from each one.  To provide a control group they did the same thing for 20 fast food ads.

Each of the participants looked at the ads then answered whether they had ever seen the ad, did they like the ad, and did they know what alcohol brand or fast-food chain the ad was for.

Recognition of alcohol ads was 17 percent higher for kids who had ever drank and 48 percent higher for kids who binge drank. While more exposure to drinking through friends and family did align to higher rates of drinking among participants, evidence that greater familiarity with alcohol ads aligned with heavier drinking habits as well.

According to Dr. Tanski, “Underage drinking remains an important health risk in the U.S. In this study, we have shown a link between recognition of nationally televised alcohol advertisements and underage drinking initiation and heavier use patterns.”

The control of fast-food advertisement recognition did not have anything to do with drinking behavior, but did stand to show that familiarity with ads in general did not correspond to drinking.

The findings for this study were presented at the annual conference for the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) held in Boston from April 28 – May 1, 2012.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 3, 2012
Last Updated:
May 3, 2012