NIAAA-Funded Study Showing Alcohol Ads Contribute to Youth Drinking



George A. Hacker, Director, Alcohol Policies Project,
Center for Science in the Public Interest,
on New Research Showing Alcohol Ads

Contribute to Youth Drinking


New research published in the January 2006 edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine and funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) significantly reinforces the obvious –- that alcohol advertising influences young drinkers.  A full-text copy of the new research is available here.

While advertising is clearly not the only influence on youth drinking, this study refutes once and for all the alcoholic-beverage industry’s cynical contention that alcohol advertising is only about brand choice and has no effect on underage drinking.

We hope the study will spur a political response that will put an end to the routine recruitment of young drinkers.  Previous studies by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the beer and liquor industries’ voluntary advertising codes, which still allow vast over-exposure of underage audiences to alcohol advertising.  Now that we’re increasingly certain such exposure contributes to higher rates of underage drinking, we have a societal obligation to reject such predatory marketing practices.

We urge Congress to study those findings and their implications for public health policy.  Oversight hearings on alcohol advertising issues are long overdue.

For starters, Congress and the Federal Trade Commission should encourage alcohol marketers to tighten current advertising placement standards, which now allow 30 percent of the audience to be under the legal drinking age.  That standard should be lowered to 15 percent.  It is attainable without significantly limiting the industry’s ability to target an adult audience  (“Striking a Balance: Protecting Youth From Overexposure to Alcohol Ads and Allowing Alcohol Companies to Reach the Adult Market,” CAMY, July 2005,).

Secondly, Congress should pass the STOP Underage Drinking Act (HR 864 and S. 408), which includes provisions instituting federal monitoring of alcohol advertising.  Congress should further move quickly to establish a national media campaign on underage drinking prevention.  Such a campaign could help offset the barrage of alcohol advertising and inducements to drink which presently entice young people and shape their perceptions of drinking.

Lastly, the study clearly underscores the fundamental conflict of interest between the alcoholic-beverage industry’s economic interests and the interests of public health.  It casts further skepticism on industry’s claims to be “part of the solution” to preventing alcohol problems, and highlights the need for a more visible, vocal and independent federal public health voice on underage drinking prevention.





The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a nonprofit health-advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on nutrition, food safety, and alcohol policies.  It led efforts to obtain warning labels on alcoholic beverages and is well-known for revealing the nutrition content of many restaurant foods.  CSPI is supported largely by the 800,000 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by foundation grants.

Updated January 5, 2006


Related Links:


Effects of Alcohol Advertising Exposure on Drinking Among Youth

Snyder, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006.




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