Young people between 18 and 20 years of age are the group most heavily exposed to magazine advertising of alcohol brands known to be most popular with these youths, an analysis has concluded.

The results, to be published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, are from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.

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The researchers used national magazine readership data to identify the age groups that received the highest exposure to advertising for the top brands known to be consumed by underage drinkers.

The team is led by Dr. David Jernigan, who says the study "suggests a relationship between advertising exposure and consumption of specific brands."

Dr. Jernigan says: "Eighteen- to 20-year-olds experience one of the highest rates of excessive alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among all age groups." This study "adds to the growing evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising may be related to drinking."

The work also found evidence that drinks advertisers' own voluntary code in relation to exposing young people to the branding may not be effective.

According to the US code for alcohol advertising, only magazines that attract an audience in which less than 30% of the readers are under 21 should be receiving placements by alcohol brands.

While there was no breach of this specific rule found in the study, 18-20-year-olds were still the most heavily exposed age group for some of the brands they were most likely to consume.

Dr. Craig Ross, lead author of the study, says:

"The fact that we see these high levels of exposure to magazine advertising among underage readers despite all of the magazine advertisements being in compliance with alcohol industry self-regulatory codes clearly shows current self-regulatory guidelines are not protective of youth."

Dr. Ross adds: "With alcohol the number one drug among youth, and responsible for 4,300 deaths per year, it's time to ask ourselves what more can be done in the interest of our nation's young people."

Top 25 brands analyzed

Dr. Ross says: "Young people, and especially young females, still read magazines, and the alcohol brands youth are being overexposed to via magazine advertisements are the same brands they are choosing to drink."

The analysis found that young men were nine times more at risk of receiving the branding than other age groups, as Dr. Ross explains:

"Overall, the top 25 brands consumed by underage males were more than nine times more likely to include males aged 18 to 20 in their most heavily exposed group, and the top 25 brands consumed by underage females were more than five times more likely to include females aged 18 to 20 in their most heavily exposed group."

For their analysis, the researchers used national magazine readership data to identify the age groups that received the highest exposure to advertising for the top brands known from previous research to be consumed by underage males and females.

The data revealed the following.

    For males:

  • Of the top 25 brands, 17 (68%) were targeted at 18-20-year-olds
  • For 11 brands, exposure was greater for these youths than for any other age group.
  • For females:

  • Of the same top brands, 18 (72%) were targeted at 18-20-year-olds
  • For 16 brands, exposure was greater for these youths than for any other age group.

Influence over young people's consumption - this time from food shown on TV aimed at children - is also the subject of this news story from recent days - TV gives children a "bad example" on food.