Today, at any age, we are inundated with advertising, whether it be in print, on our numerous devices, within movies, or on television. This advertising is not innocuous, rather it—as intended—affects our perception of ourselves, our lives, our needs, and our wants. What can be dangerous is when advertising exerts this force on a demographic of people that it shouldn’t.
Alcohol Advertising Exerts A Negative Impact On Adolescents
Adolescents and teenagers are within a pivotal period of their lives. Their physical, mental, and emotional states are changing. For these reasons and due to the uncertainties that these changes may at times create, they can be especially vulnerable to outside influences.
Alcohol has long been an issue within this population. Drinking, especially binge drinking, is a common aspect of recreational activity within younger age groups. The social and peer pressures in adolescence may at times seem insurmountable to a young person contending with the onslaught of changes and expectations that young people are experiencing. Coupled with yet another pressure or enticement—advertising—some adolescents may fall prey to alcohol use and abuse in a manner that can have many negative effects.
A recent study, published the beginning of this mouth in the journal Addiction, sought to examine this influence. Despite the fact that this study was focused on alcohol advertising and its effects on adolescents in Europe (the study was based on just over 9,000 adolescents, mean age of 14, throughout Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Poland), the results are equally impactful within the United States, as our young people experience a plethora of advertisements pertaining to alcohol on a regular basis. What the study found was that alcohol advertising was positively correlated to individuals of this age consuming alcohol.
The study specifically focused on past-month and binge drinking behaviors, and found that the amount and frequency of abuse was directly tied to alcohol advertising. Researchers focused on specific areas of advertising that are apt to reach this audience; they included “online alcohol marketing, televised alcohol advertising, alcohol sport sponsorship, music event/festival sponsorship, ownership alcohol-branded promotional items, reception of free samples and exposure to price offers.” What you’ll notice in looking over their focus points are numerous venues that are inexplicably linked with the life of an average adolescent—music, sports, online interaction, and television.
If an adolescent is experiencing this advertising in a venue such as these, the advertising may come across in a manner that seems connected to these events—specifically that the measure of fun or enjoyment of said events may be heightened if experienced in conjunction with alcohol. In addition, being that these events are social, the individual may be quick to make the assumption that alcohol is a large part of being social.
Paired with any other existing perceptions, notions, or experiences these young people may have with alcohol, they might grow to view it in a more positive light without being aware or concerned of the negative aspects.
What was startling about these findings is that the researchers specifically sought to determine if the results were influenced by other factors or if they stood independently based only on alcohol advertising. The study concluded that “This effect could be neither explained by previous experiences of drinking nor by exposure to non-alcohol-branded media exposure.” This illustrates exactly how powerful these advertisements can be. Now imagine the impact when compounded by the other social and peer pressures adolescents are exposed to during these formative years.
Due to the impact of these findings, the researchers urge that more stringent regulations be put in place to dictate the access that adolescents have to these outlets. ScienceDaily quoted the study’s lead author, Avalon de Bruijn as saying “Our study highlights the need to restrict the volume of alcohol marketing to which young people are exposed in everyday life. It’s no longer just a matter of restricting television ads; policymakers need to examine the alcohol industry’s total marketing scheme and develop regulations that will reduce all types of alcohol marketing.”
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, it can be very hard to shelter your child from every reference to alcohol within social media, television, sporting events, and other venues. However, this does not mean that you are helpless. Engaging your child and initiating a dialogue about alcohol and social and peer pressures can be one of the best things you as a parent can do to both protect and prepare your child. These conversations help to keep your child educated and accountable. Instead of your child seeing these advertisements without an accurate reference for the role of alcohol within a person’s life, you can talk to them and portray to them the dangers and risks of underage drinking.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acknowledges the allure of these forms of alcohol advertising, and suggests sharing and communicating the following “media literacy” techniques with your adolescent, so that you can encourage them to be more mindful about how they view and are impacted by these ads. The following questions were excerpted from the FTC’s consumer information on alcohol advertising.
- Who created or paid for the ad, and why?
- What do they want you to do?
- What techniques are being used to make the scene and the product look attractive? For example:
- Who are the people in the ad and how do they look?
- What are they doing, and where?
- Does the ad try to associate the brand with fun, or sports, or humor? How?
- Does the ad suggest that alcohol somehow makes the situation better?
- How does this ad make you feel? Is this an accident, or did the advertiser intend it?
- What message is the ad trying to get you to believe?
- What values and lifestyles are represented by this ad?
- What isn’t the ad saying? Does it show anything bad about alcohol?
Integrating these questions into a discussion with your child will help them to be able to draw upon these same questions when they encounter these advertisements. It will encourage them to consider the fact that the advertisements were created with specific intentions, intentions that they don’t have to buy into or believe. As the FTC says “Exercises like this can help your teen better understand that alcohol ads communicate the advertiser’s point of view and learn how to challenge what an ad is saying, internally.”
What Do We Do Within The U.S. To Monitor Alcohol Advertising?
According to the FTC, “The First Amendment provides substantial protections to speech, and thus substantially limits the government’s ability to regulate truthful, non-deceptive alcohol advertising based on concerns about underage appeal.” Due to this, most of the regulations are voluntary and self-regulatory, with specific codes that help protect these advertisements from being targeted at individuals under age 21. The FTC commented on this, stating “Among other provisions, these codes direct that no more than 28.4% of the audience for an ad may consist of people under 21, based on reliable audience data; and that ad content should not appeal primarily to people under 21.”
Alcohol Abuse Presents Unique Concerns To Adolescents
Alcohol misuse, abuse, and addiction present a slew of dangers to a person of any age, however, drinking within this age bracket poses specific risks. At this age, a young person is still growing and their brain is still experiencing crucial stages of development. Due to this, alcohol abuse and addiction can cause damage to a young person’s brain development, some of which can impact them for the entirety of their life. It impacts cognitive functions, impairing such things as learning and memory.
In addition to this, it puts them at greater risk of unintended pregnancy, risk of injury or death from a motor vehicle accident, increased risk of abusing other drugs, social and family issues, setbacks to their educational pursuits, and a host of other issues.
Let Us Help You Stay Steadfast
It can be hard to stay strong when there are so many outside influences that seem to glorify alcohol use. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, please don’t let it continue. The longer a person continues down this path, the greater the damage. Our staff understands the unique needs and pressures that a young person faces. We can help you to get the help you need to support them in living a healthier and sober life. Contact us today at DrugRehab.org and get ready for a successful new life in recovery.
Alcohol Justice – European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use
ScienceDaily – Alcohol advertising linked to adolescent drinking
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking
Federal Trade Commission – Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry
Federal Trade Commission – Alcohol Advertising