Alcohol use among underage youth – younger than 21 years of age – remains an important public-health issue, despite a decline in the past decade. The alcohol beverage industry denies that it promotes its products to underage youth. This study investigated whether alcohol brands popular among underage drinkers (12 to 20 years of age) are more likely than other alcohol brands to be advertised in magazines with large underage readerships.
Researchers analyzed the advertising of 680 alcohol brands in 49 national magazines published between 2006 and 2011. They examined the relationship between a magazine’s underage readership and the probability that it contained underage or other brand advertising, while controlling for young-adult (ages 21–29 years) and total readerships, advertising costs and expenditures, and readership demographics.
This first-of-its-kind study found that alcohol brands that are popular among underage drinkers are more likely than other alcohol brands to advertise in magazines with high underage readerships, resulting in the disproportionate exposure of underage youth. The report’s authors asserted that the alcohol beverage industry’s self-regulatory advertising code, which prohibits advertising in magazines with a greater-than 28.4 percent underage readership, is inadequate because it fails to protect underage youth from disproportionate exposure. They further suggested that policy makers consider regulating alcohol advertising in magazines in order to limit advertising exposure among underage youth.