New alcohol advertising guidelines, based on findings by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, could dramatically reduce the number of alcohol ads viewed by children – if advertisers follow them.
The new report, published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that our youth were exposed more than 15 billion times to alcohol ads on television – mostly on cable networks – between 2005 and 2012.
That means that about one in eight alcohol commercials were seen by children. No, make that absorbed by children. Not to mention these occurrences were already not in compliance with the alcohol industry’s previous self-regulatory advertising guidelines.
These commercials painted a picture of alcohol as fun and frivolous that children couldn’t help but take in, sending a dangerous and deadly message to our kids. Have no doubt, these ads played a role in shaping attitudes toward drinking and contributed to the number of underage drinkers and underage drunk drivers.
Underage drinking kills more than 4,300 people under the age of 21 annually, making it one of the top three leading causes of death in this age group. Study after study (14 reports, in fact) have concluded that alcohol advertisements play a role in the decision to drink by kids. It makes them more likely to drink and, if people under 21 years old already drink, it makes them more likely to drink even more.
The paper also outlines new standards for ad placement, often called a “no-buy” list, which would address almost all non-compliance issues – if advertisers chose to follow them more closely than the previous guidelines. These guidelines won’t end underage drinking, bottom line, but the new recommendations will have an impact if advertisers see the sense and cents in following them.
MADD’s Power of Parents® program gives parents the tools to start ongoing and intentional conversations with their kids about alcohol. If you see one of these alcohol advertisements on a program that your child watches, take the opportunity to have a discussion with them about the real consequences of drinking underage. If you need help getting started, download our parent handbook for tips and tricks on tackling this difficult subject at home.