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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

TV Alcohol Ads Influence Underage Drinking

By January 28, 2013

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Most parents are concerned about the influence that media has on their kids, from encouraging them to smoke and drink alcohol, to doing drugs or becoming violent. That's why many try to supervise and limit what they watch on TV, which movies they see, and what video games they play.

A new study that will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics, "Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems," shows why that concern is warranted.

The study, which surveyed 7th graders, found that "exposure to alcohol advertising and liking of those ads in grade 7 has a significant influence on the severity of alcohol-related problems in grade 10 and that influence is mediated by growth in alcohol use from grades 7 to 9."

In addition to looking at their parents' education level, whether or not the students play sports, and whether they knew friends or adults who drink, the study looked at:

  • exposure to certain television programs during which alcohol ads appeared
  • recognition and recall of the ads and products
  • how much they liked the alcohol ads shown on TV
  • frequency and amount of their own alcohol use
  • problems associated with alcohol use, such as trouble with homework or getting into fights

The study concluded that these "younger adolescents appear to be susceptible to the persuasive messages contained in alcohol commercials broadcast on TV, which sometimes results in a positive affective reaction to the ads. Alcohol ad exposure and the affective reaction to those ads influence some youth to drink more and experience drinking-related problems later in adolescence."

Especially as this is hardly the first study to show a link between teen underage drinking and media influences, in addition to trying to limit your child's exposure to alcohol ads, since so many high school students do drink alcohol, it is also important to teach your kids to avoid being influenced by these types of ads.

Another study that will appear in the February issue of Pediatrics, "Physician Advice to Adolescents About Drinking and Other Health Behaviors," urges more doctors to "follow professional guidelines to screen and counsel adolescents about unhealthy alcohol use and other behaviors that pose health risks." This will hopefully help us find and help those kids who are drinking, so we can help them reduce or stop their drinking.

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