Alcohol advertising is hard to avoid. It appears on television, in-store advertising, and in magazines. These ads have a particularly marked impact on young people.
A whopping 11% of alcohol consumed in the United States goes to young people. Though advertising agencies may claim that they’re not targeting underage drinkers, they’re certainly not blind to the effects that their marketing will have on them.
Consider these serious negative effects of alcohol advertising.
Giving Alcohol a Positive Image Among Youth
Alcohol advertising typically promotes drinking as an activity that’s rewarding and attractive. These ads reinforce that alcohol use is acceptable and imply that drinking offers a wealth of benefits such as escape, refreshment, camaraderie, and social approval.
After watching an alcohol ad with an escape theme, 60% of study participants said they felt that the product would help them get away from an ordinary situation.
Promoting Alcohol Consumption Earlier
One of the negative effects of alcohol advertising is that this marketing can help drinking seem normative and encourage drinking at a younger age.
When adults were asked to think back to the time when they first started experimenting with alcohol, 60% said either “yes” or “maybe” when asked if alcohol ads normalized the idea of alcohol consumption.
A study published by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that younger adolescents are susceptible to persuasive messages in alcohol advertising. Children and adolescents have less contextual knowledge of alcohol than adults.
Before they’ve experienced the negative effects of drinking, young viewers are especially susceptible to alcohol advertising. They will develop positive expectancies about drinking long before they take their first sip. These young people expect drinking to provide greater social approval.
As a result, they often intend to drink more as adults.
Increasing Alcohol Consumption in Youths
Youths who see more alcohol advertising tend to drink more on average when compared to those who have been exposed to less advertising of this sort.
Alcohol consumption among youth is higher in markets with more alcohol advertising. Each additional dollar that alcohol companies spend per capita on their advertising translates to a 3% increase in the number of drinks consumed among youth.
Each additional ad viewed by a young person increased the number of drinks they consumed by 1%.
The effects of this advertising are long-lasting. Exposure to a market with a high degree of alcohol advertising while under the age of 21 increased drinking among youth into their late 20s.
In markets where youth were exposed to less alcohol advertising, drinking typically plateaued in the early 20s. This reinforces the idea that viewing alcohol ads at a young age leads to clear expectations about how much one will drink as an adult.
It’s important to be aware of the effects that alcohol advertising can have on viewers, particularly when those viewers are underage. Alcohol is an addictive drug and young people who start drinking early may develop alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States and should be treated with appropriate caution.
We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.
Peter Anderson, Avalon de Bruijn, Kathryn Angus, Ross Gordon, Gerard Hastings, Impact of Alcohol Advertising and Media Exposure on Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 44, Issue 3, May-June 2009, Pages 229–243, https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agn115
Snyder LB, Milici FF, Slater M, Sun H, Strizhakova Y. Effects of Alcohol Advertising Exposure on Drinking Among Youth. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(1):18–24. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.1.18