March 17 2020; Medical news Bulletin; By Shayna Goldenberg; 

Alcohol marketing to young people is more likely to encourage greater alcohol consumption, a recent study finds.

Alcohol marketing is pervasive. It is seen on posters, TV, and the internet. While young people are not the target audience, this constant display of alcohol advertising may have a negative impact on underage drinking habits.

In a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a research team investigated the relationship between alcohol marketing and alcohol use in youths by reviewing 38 studies published over the past 40 years. Most of the studies were performed in Europe or the United States.

The team examined the following forms of marketing:

  1. Alcohol advertising: This includes TV, media, newspapers, magazines, music, liquor stores, bars, and pubs.
  2. Alcohol promotion: This includes alcohol-related events.
  3. Alcohol-related merchandise: This includes wearing clothes sponsored by alcohol companies.

Overall, alcohol marketing did increase alcohol consumption in young people. However, alcohol promotion and owning alcohol-related merchandise had a higher impact on underage drinking habits than the other forms of marketing.

While the study could only indicate a relationship between alcohol marketing and alcohol use in youths—not causality—it did highlight important findings about the nature of alcohol marketing. First, while alcohol companies are supposed to limit exposure to those of legal drinking age, that is not always the case. The researchers recommend external agencies to monitor and review advertising materials to ensure they are reaching the target audience.

Second, the study suggests reducing youth participation in alcohol-related events, especially those where alcohol is served freely and IDs are not checked. Furthermore, the study proposes that youths not be allowed to wear merchandise promoting alcohol.

Future studies should examine how each form of marketing directly influences drinking habits. Determining the medium by which alcohol is advertised is important to know where the greatest influence for youth lies. For example, it is possible that advertising on YouTube has a greater impact than advertising on Twitter.

The findings from this study can help by policymakers and public health officials make decisions about how to limit alcohol marketing to young people, thereby reducing underage drinking. 

References:

  1. Alcohol marketing and underage drinking. EurekAlert!. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-03/pifr-ama030620.php. Published 2020. Accessed March 11, 2020.
  2. Finan L, Lipperman-Kreda S, Grube J, Balassone A, Kaner E. Alcohol Marketing and Adolescent and Young Adult Alcohol Use Behaviors: A Systematic Review of Cross-Sectional Studies. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement. 2020;(s19):42-56. doi:10.15288/jsads.2020.s19.42

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