Children exposed to alcohol ads more likely to drink.
According to a recent Rand study, children as young as 11 and 12 who are exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to use alcohol or to plan to use alcohol. The study found that children with the highest levels of marketing exposure were 50 percent more likely to drink and 36 percent more likely to intend to drink a year later compared to children with little exposure to alcohol ads.
The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, measured the exposure of 1,786 South Dakota sixth-graders to alcohol advertising and marketing, including television, magazine, radio and in-store displays. A follow-up survey a year later measured drinking intentions and behaviors of the same children.
While exposure to television advertising, often found on sports programs, increased the likelihood of drinking, other marketing mechanisms also mattered. Sixth-graders who owned an alcohol-related promotional item, such as a hat or poster, were nearly twice as likely to drink a year later compared to those who did not.
Rebecca L. Collins, PhD, a Rand senior behavioral scientist and lead author of the study, said the influence of alcohol marketing is far-reaching.
"Kids who see beer displays in grocery stores, drug stores or who see these things at sporting events are getting the message that beer is part of fun and everyday life," Collins told The Nation's Health.
Young adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol's advertising effects because they often lack the cognitive skills necessary to counter advertising messages, she said.
The effects of alcohol ads are important, with nearly 11 million underage drinkers in the United States and 7.2 million underage binge drinkers, the U.S. surgeon general's office reported in March in a national call to action on underage drinking. The surgeon general's office also cited research showing alcohol may harm the developing adolescent brain and that people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life. Underage drinking is associated with higher risks of motor vehicle crashes, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide and disability, according to the Rand study.
The magnitude and prevalence of underage drinking and its consequences make it imperative to educate parents, teachers, coaches--"all the people who are influencing these youth," said Bob Vollinger, MSPH, chair of APHA's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section.
In fact, parents can play a vital role in informing a child's beliefs and intentions about alcohol, but their influence may be age limited, Collins said.
"We know for really young adolescents, parents have a stronger influence than peers, and they lose that edge as kids get older," Collins said.
For more information or a copy of the Rand study, visit www.rand. org. For more information on underage drinking, visit www.stop alocholabuse.gov.