New research shows that middle-school kids frequently are exposed to alcohol marketing.
Exposure to alcohol advertising is frequent among middle-school aged kids and may put them at risk for earlier or more frequent underage alcohol use. Greater restrictions on alcohol advertising outdoors and on television should be considered by policy-makers.
A new study shows: Children as young as middle-schoolers are exposed to multiple alcohol advertisements on a daily basis, both indoors and outdoors. The study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that kids ages 11 to 14 typically saw two to four alcohol ads per day.
Young kids targeted by Big Alcohol
Researchers Rebecca L. Collins, Ph.D. and colleagues from the non-profit RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California had 589 Los Angeles-area youth between the ages of 11 and 14 record their daily encounters with alcohol advertisements over a 14-day period. The children, who belonged to all ethnic groups and were equal amounts male and female, recorded their alcohol encounters using a hand-held computer device. They were asked to record only alcohol advertising that they naturally encountered rather than attempt to “find” advertisements. Participants were also asked to record how they encountered each advertisement (for example, whether it was on television or on a billboard).
The findings are concerning because studies indicate that ads do encourage underage alcohol use.
The evidence is strong that kids are at greater risk if they’re exposed to alcohol advertising,” Collins said.
Oftentimes television was the source of alcohol advertising targeting children. But also outdoor marketings, such as billboards and signs outside stores and restaurants, were prominent in kids’ lives.
The alcohol industry routinely praises itself for its self-regulation codes and efforts. They have self-imposed guidelines saying that ads should be limited to media that have a mostly adult audience, for instance. The self-regulatory schemes also discourage placing ads near schools, playgrounds and churches, Collins pointed out.
Yet, middle-schoolers routinely saw alcohol marketing in their daily lives.
Results showed that on average, kids saw two to four alcohol ads per day.
- Outdoor advertising accounts for the largest amount of alcohol ads exposure by kids, with 38% of all ads.
- Television was the second most common way for middle-school children encounter alcohol advertising, with 26% exposure.
- Beer was by far the most commonly encountered alcoholic beverage across every advertising venue.
- Girls saw 30% more alcohol advertisements than boys did.
- Minority children of both genders saw twice as many alcohol advertisements than white children.
Research shows that exposure to alcohol advertising increases kids’ risk of underage alcohol consumption. For example, one 2015 study found that the alcohol advertising receptivity score, a composite based on how much a child noticed, remembered, and liked an alcohol advertisement, “independently predicted the onset of [alcohol use], the onset of binge [alcohol use], and the onset of hazardous [alcohol intake].”
Collins and colleagues say:
Just know that kids’ decisions to drink don’t suddenly come up in college.
Young kids are being exposed to alcohol ads all the time, and that can influence them.”