Alcohol Advertising and Teens

“Despite alcohol company reports in a 2012 Federal Trade Commission summary that they pay little for brand placement of their products, highly advertised brands appeared commonly in some TV shows popular with underage youth.


“The current approach to alcohol self-regulation in television media represents a failure of our government to protect children from alcohol industry marketing,” Dr. Gabrielli said.


“Given the significant health implications of underage drinking, the Federal Trade Commission needs to place more emphasis on monitoring and limiting alcohol brand placement of alcohol in media,” she said.

Source: Alcohol brand placement on TV linked with teens’ brand preferences and drinking behaviors: Federal Trade Commission should keep better tabs on alcohol brand placement in TV and movies, say researchers — ScienceDaily

That an alcohol brand pays “little”, I assume they meant “little attention” not that they do not pay very much money to put their ads on prime time TV shows.

Little attention would seem unwise. Corporations exist to maximize shareholder profits. They spend millions on producing the commercials, they have psychologists to advise them on what works best, they have marketers to advise them on what demographic they are pushing their product to, but they take these high dollar, very researched commercials, and just flop them down and are happy no matter where they land.

This seems very reckless and wasteful. Why don’t their stakeholders sue them for this negligence.  After all, most corporations they are required to increase stakeholder wealth (they are not).

Apparently, what seems obvious to me, that they are lying about who they target, is not so obvious to the Federal Trade Commission.  And there is a reason for why the FTC is bewildered.  Very big players in alcohol abuse research, including the NIAAA, do not believe it has a big impact.

Here is probably the best known statistic on youth alcohol advertising

Probably the best known example was a 1996 survey by the Center on Alcohol Advertising which showed that the Budweiser frogs were recognized by almost as many kids as Bugs Bunny a year after they were introduced.

What is not so well known is the following statement from the same source

research on the effects of alcohol advertising on youth has not shown that advertising has much of an impact on teen drinking.
At least, this is the conclusion reached by a number of reviews of evidence, including the 10th Special Report to Congress on Alcohol and Health by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in June 2000.

Prevalence of Underage Drinking

  • Every day in the United States, more than 4,750 kids under age 16 have their first full drink of alcohol.1
  • More youth in the United States drink alcohol than smoke tobacco or marijuana, making it the drug most used by American young people.2
  • The average age at which young people ages 12 to 17 begin to drink is 13 years old.3
  • The average age that underage drinkers ages 12 to 20 begin to drink is 16.1 years old.4
  • From 1979 to 2006, risk of binge drinking declined from 12- to 20-year old males but not females in this age range. NO reduction in binge drinking occurred for college males.5, 6
  • In a national study, 13.8% of eighth-graders reported having at least one drink in the past 30 days, and 11.5% had been drunk at least once in the past year.7
  • Between 1993 and 2001, 18- to 20-year-old drinkers showed the largest increase (56%) in binge-drinking episodes among American adults. This group of underage drinkers also had the second-highest rate of binge drinking, outstripped only by young adults ages 21 to 25.8
  • Twelve- to fourteen-year-old binge drinkers consume 91% of the alcohol drunk by their age group. Ninety-four percent of the alcohol drunk by all 15- to 17-year-olds and 96% of the alcohol drunk by all 18- to 20-year-olds is consumed through binge drinking.9
  • Approximately 10.0 million persons ages 12 to 20 (26.3 % of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Nearly 6.5 million (17.0%) were binge drinkers, and 2.0 million (5.1%) were heavy drinkers.10
  • Almost half (48%) of all alcohol use reported by college students is attributable to those who are underage.11
  • Underage drinking is estimated to account for between 11% and 20% of the U.S. alcohol market. Even the lower estimate of 11% represents 3.6 billion drinks each year.12, 13
  • Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.1
  • In 2009, among current underage drinkers, 30.6% paid for the alcohol the last time they drank—8.8% purchased the alcohol themselves and 21.6% gave money to someone else to purchase it. Among the underage drinkers who did not pay for the alcohol the last time they drank, 38.9% received it from an unrelated person ages 21 or older, 16.6% received it from other underage persons, and 21.6% received it from parents, guardians, or other adult family members, 6.0% took the alcohol from home, 3.8% took it from someone else’s home, and 8.1% got it some other way.15

from John Hopkins CAMY (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth)

I think this statement from above has tremendous value to parents. Parents really are the anti-drug.

Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.

The Toll of Underage Drinking


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4,358 deaths of person under age 21 each year are caused by alcohol use.1
  • Alcohol use plays a substantial role in all three leading causes of death among youth – unintentional injuries (including motor vehicle fatalities and drownings), suicides, and homicides.2


  • Youth who begin drinking before the age of 14 have 5 times greater odds of being injured while under the influence of alcohol, 6.3 times greater odds of ever being in a motor vehicle crash, and 6 times greater odds of ever being in a fight as compared to than youth who begin drinking after the age of 21.3
  • A National Trauma Data Bank analysis of over 30,000 injured youth age 12-18 who were screened for alcohol use from 2009-2012 found the mortality rate for youth under the influence of alcohol was significantly higher when compared to youth who had not drank prior to injury.4
  • As compared to underage youth who do not drink flavored alcoholic beverages (FABs), underage youth who drink alcopops (e.g., Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade) had 6 times greater odds of reporting an alcohol-related injury in the previous 12 months.5

Suicide and Self-Harm:

  • Youth who drink heavily have 23.6 times greater odds of intentionally injuring themselves by means such as self-cutting, attempted hanging, or self-poisoning as compared to youth who don’t drink heavily.6
  • Among young people, drinkers and binge drinkers are more likely than non-drinkers to contemplate or attempt suicide:7


  • States that passed “zero tolerance” laws to reduce youth drinking-driving also experienced statistically significant reductions in suicide deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds, compared to states that did not pass such laws.8

from John Hopkins CAMY (Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth)

Here is an interesting report on alcohol advertising and youth from the American Academy of Family Physicians

Some highlights:

The Center analyzed the placements of over 2 million alcohol advertisement placements on television between 2000 and 2007 and over 19,000 alcohol ads placed in national magazines between 2001 and 2006. In 2007, approximately 20% of television alcohol advertisements, almost all of which were on cable television, were on programming that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely to view than adults of legal drinking age. In fact, alcohol advertising increased 38% between 2001 and 2007.12 For young people, large and increasing television exposure has unfortunately offset reductions in exposure in magazines in recent years.12,13

Although the alcohol industry maintains that its advertising aims only to increase market share and not to encourage underage persons to drink, research suggests otherwise. Alcohol advertisements overwhelmingly connect consumption of alcohol with attributes particularly important to youth, such as friendship, prestige, sex appeal and fun.21

One study found, in fact, that 8-12 year olds could name more brands of beer than they could U.S. presidents.24

There is ample evidence from experimental, economic, survey, longitudinal, and systematic review studies to demonstrate that the degree of youth alcohol advertising exposure is strongly and directly associated with intentions to drink, age of drinking onset, prevalence of drinking, and the amount consumed.25,32,33,34,35,36,37,38 A 2004 prospective study conducted by the University of Southern California showed that a one standard deviation increase in viewing television programs containing alcohol commercials in seventh grade was associated with an excess risk of beer use (44%), wine/liquor use (34%), and 3-drink episodes (26%) in eighth grade.37

If alcohol is this dangerous to youths, shouldn’t we error on the side of caution. Also, corporations really do have a duty to increase stakeholder wealth, why would they keep funding huge advertising budgets that have no effect.  That seems highly unlikely.  What do the advertisers know that the NIAAA, the FTC, and the United States Congress do not.

And where does the American Academy of Family Physicians get its results from. The article cites 49 different sources. It seems that the AAFP and the alcohol corporations give credibility to similar studies but the NIAAA does not. Why is that?

The NIAAA funds much of the alcohol research being done.  What they hell are they doing?

Getting over the hangover
Driving Under Influence Intoxicants
Teens and drunk driving