February 6, 2005

Alcohol Ads Raise Teen Drinking

TV pitches showed no effect, although more study needed

HealthDay News -- Magazine and supermarket ads featuring alcohol, as well as beer concession stands at sports and music events, have an especially powerful impact in spurring teens to start drinking or increase the amount they drink, a new study suggests.

"It appears that it's a combination of message and venue that helps influence adolescent drinking. Advertising that links alcohol with everyday life -- such as supermarket store displays -- appears to have more influence on drinking initiation," lead author Phyllis Ellickson, of the nonprofit Rand Corp., said in a prepared statement.

Adolescents did not appear to be as strongly influenced by television ads for alcoholic beverages, although more study may be needed to confirm that finding, the researchers said.

The study appears in the Feb. 5 issue of Addiction.

The study of 3,111 South Dakota teens concluded that those who frequently saw prominent beer advertising displays in grocery and convenience stores were more likely to start drinking alcohol than teens who saw fewer of those kinds of advertising displays.

Teens who had already tried drinking were more likely to increase their alcohol consumption by a greater amount the more they saw alcohol ads in magazines and the more they observed beer concessions stands at sporting and music events, the study said.

The study found no evidence that television ads for alcohol products encouraged teens to start drinking, but that doesn't mean it has no long-term impact.

"We don't feel this is enough information to say that TV advertising does not have an effect on kids. It may be that TV beer advertising has a cumulative effect over a longer period of time or may have an influence on younger children. These are two issues we didn't examine," study co-author and Rand psychologist Rebecca Collins said in a prepared statement.

Rand Health is the largest independent health policy research program in the United States. This study was supported by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about teens and alcohol.