Most of us are no stranger to news about underage drinking. And even though a lot of laws have been implemented to regulate alcohol sales to minors, underage drinking remains to be a growing problem in the U.S.
According to the CDC, an estimated 4,700 deaths and 280,000 years of potential life lost among youths aged 21 years below due to excessive alcohol consumption each year were documented between 2001 and 2005.
What could there be a reason behind this? According to a recent study, alcohol advertisements could play a role in the prevalence of underage drinking. One in four alcohol television advertisements shown in major markets don’t observe voluntary standards. For example, some advertisements are being shown on shows whose pool of audience does not satisfy the audience requirement. 23.7% were placed during programs wherein less than 30% of the audience was aged 2-20 years old; and 35.4% is placed during programs that 15% of the audience is aged below 21. The numbers differ per state.
This is the first time alcohol ads on TV are analyzed at a local level. The study reaffirms public belief that young people’s exposure to alcohol ads is linked with their alcohol use.
The alcohol industry complies with the Voluntary Advertising Codes for ad placement, based on the show’s audience composition. It hasn’t been evaluated in years at a local level.
“This study indicates that the alcohol industry’s self-regulation of alcohol advertising could be improved,” said Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at John Hopkins and study researcher David Jernigan, Ph.D. The potential public health pay-off in terms of reduced risk of underage drinking and harms related to it could be quite substantial.”