- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

Alcohol advertising contributes to increased drinking among youths, according to a study published yesterday in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

The study found that each additional dollar per capita spent on alcohol advertising in a local market was associated with a 3 percent rise in underage drinking.

“This study is the strongest piece of evidence yet that … if kids see a lot of alcohol advertisements, they are more likely to drink more,” said David H. Jernigan, research director of Georgetown University’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

An editorial by Mr. Jernigan accompanied the report by Leslie B. Snyder and other University of Connecticut researchers, which concluded that increased exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to more drinking both by those younger than 21 and young adults.

A longitudinal study of 15- to 26-year-olds found that subjects heightened their alcohol intake by 1 percent per month for each additional alcohol ad they saw on television, billboards or magazines, or heard on the radio.

Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, said other studies supposedly have linked alcohol ads and increased drinking by the young, but “none of those found that advertising caused drinking, nor does this one.”

The researchers randomly sampled 1,872 persons in 24 markets from 1999 to 2001. The study found that those in age groups both younger than 21 and older than 21 who reported viewing more alcohol ads reported more drinking.

The computations found that a 20-year-old man who saw a few alcohol ads and lived in an area with minimal alcohol ad expenses per capita was predicted to have nine alcoholic drinks in a month, compared with 16 drinks if he saw many ads.

Mr. Jernigan said the study marks “the first time that self-reported exposure [to alcohol advertising] has been complemented by an objective measure of how much alcohol advertising is available in the media environment in which young people live.”

He said the findings, “call into question the industry’s argument that its roughly $1.8 billion in measured media expenditures per year have no impact on underaged drinking.”

No federal restrictions have been imposed on alcohol advertising, but the industry is subject to voluntary codes dictating that 70 percent of audiences for their ads be older than 21. Mr. Becker said the beer industry strictly adheres to those codes.

However, the Connecticut researchers included data from the Center on Marketing and Youth (CMY), which asserts that those younger than 21 are exposed to more ads for beer, liquor and ‘alcopops’ — spiked soft drinks — than those who can drink legally.

Mr. Becker denies that and says the Federal Trade Commission has found “flawed methodology” with some of CMY’s data.

However, the FTC has concluded that advertising is one of many factors that may influence underage drinking.

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