Background: The alcohol industry recognizes children and pregnant women as population sub-groups vulnerable to the effects of alcohol marketing. Research indicates that heavy alcohol users are also potentially vulnerable to alcohol marketing. The purpose of the cur- rent study is to determine if sub-groups defined by psychological characteristics should be classified as potentially vulnerable as well. Methods: College students (n1⁄4326) from two northeast schools were recruited to complete a survey containing questions on demograph- ics, alcohol use, and psychological characteristics (alcohol expectancies, alcohol dependence, sensation seeking traits, and past delinquent behaviors). Additionally, after viewing each of five alcohol ads (4 television and 1 magazine), participants answered questions about their perceptions of alcohol consumption, responsible drinking, excessive drinking, and appeal of the ads. Main effects were assessed using hierarchical linear modeling, with adjustment for age, sex, race, ethnicity, and AUDIT score. Results: Alcohol expectancies (p<.001), particu- larly the social and physical pleasure and social expressiveness sub-scales, and sensation seeking traits (p 1⁄4 .002) were positively associated with alcohol ad appeal. Alcohol depend- ence symptoms, specifically impaired control and tolerance, were positively associated with perceptions of responsible drinking (p1⁄4.035), even though mean perceived number of drinks consumed met the definition of binge drinking. Conclusions: Individuals with positive alcohol expectancies, sensation seeking traits, and alcohol dependence may be vulnerable to alcohol advertising and marketing. Because alcohol advertising often contains content that can serve as a cue or reinforce to drink, specific regulations may be needed to prevent alcohol-related harm from occurring in these sub-populations.
In: Substance Use & Misuse