This review of currently available scientific literature shows exposure to online alcohol marketing leads to advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption.
Gap in the literature It has been well established by various studies that exposure to alcohol advertising affects the drinking behaviour of young people. Empirical- and review studies supporting this have been published in peer reviewed journals [1-4] and by the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission . However, there appears to be a gap in the literature and common knowledge when it comes to the specific measured effects of online alcohol marketing. To fill this gap, EUCAM initiated a non-systematic literature review which found 10 studies that in one way or another measured the effects of exposure to digital or online alcohol marketing on the drinking behaviour of young people.Main findings: • Two studies which did not specifically identify online alcohol marketing exposure, found positive associations with drinking, despite their broad scope [6, 7]. • Three studies, in which online alcohol marketing is part of a cumulative exposure measure, show a positive association between exposure to alcohol marketing and young people’s drinking behaviour [8-10]. • Three studies directly measured exposure to online alcohol marketing and showed strong positive associations [11-13]. • In these last three studies, effects ranged from advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption [11-13]. One study even suggests an association with binge drinking . • One study found that the effect of online alcohol advertising was almost twice as strong as that of traditional marketing . • It’s not just commercial advertising messages: In two studies a strong association has been found between young people explicitly presenting their selves as drinkers (assuming an ‘alcohol identity’) on social network sites and harmful drinking behaviour [14, 15]. • This last association exemplifies the problem of the lines being blurred between commercial advertising messages and user generated content on social media sites [14, 15].
The effects of alcohol advertising and marketing on drinking behavior of young people has been more and more extensively studied over the past few years. Evidence has grown stronger that especially exposure to large volumes of alcohol advertising has an undesirable impact on the drinking behavior of youngsters. These effects of alcohol advertising on drinking behavior have been found on the long term (longitudinal studies) as well as on the short term (experimental studies). Both types of research (findings) will be discussed in this fact sheet. The fact sheet concludes that taken together, both longitudinal studies as well as experimental studies indicate that exposure to the amount of alcohol advertising and promotion affects youth drinking behavior. This conclusion is supported by several empirical- and review studies, published in peer reviewed journals and by the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission (2009). These effects show the need to limit the volume (and content) of alcohol marketing through comprehensive legislation.
While there has been a multitude of research on the various ways and media of alcohol marketing and their effects on young people, research on alcohol marketing in the cinema has only recently taken off. This fact sheet covers the prevalence, range and effects of alcohol marketing in the cinema as proven in recent studies in the Netherlands and the UK.
The impact of alcohol advertisement in cinemas should not be neglected. As a medium for alcohol advertising, cinemas should be taken into account in the discussion of restricting or banning alcohol marketing. The full fact sheet can be downloaded and read here
Alcohol use among children and adolescents is of particular concern to policy makers, since these youngsters are facing disproportional physical and social alcohol related harm (Boelema et al 2009). There is increasing evidence that exposure to media and alcohol marketing is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink alcohol, and with increased drinking amongst those who already drink alcohol (Anderson et al 2009). This association is not found for the population as a whole.
This fact sheet describes reasons, found in the literature, why adolescents are in particular vulnerable to exposure to the influence of alcohol advertising and promotion.