Alcohol Advertising Exposure Among Middle School-Age Youth

An Assessment Across All Media and Venues

Published in: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, v. 77, no. 3, May 2016, p. 384-392

Posted on RAND.org on June 24, 2016

by Rebecca L. Collins, Steven Martino, Stephanie Kovalchik, Kirsten Becker, William Shadel, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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Research Questions

  1. How often are middle school-age youth exposed to advertisements for alcohol?
  2. What types of ads do these adolescents encounter most frequently?

Objective

The purpose of this study was to quantify middle school youth's exposure to alcohol advertisements across media and venues, determine venues of greatest exposure, and identify characteristics of youth who are most exposed.

Method

Over a 10-month period in 2013, 589 Los Angeles–area youth ages 11–14 from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds completed a short paper-and-pencil survey assessing background characteristics and then participated in a 14-day ecological momentary assessment, logging all exposures to alcohol advertisements on handheld computers as they occurred.

Results

African American and Hispanic youth were exposed to an average of 4.1 and 3.4 advertisements per day, respectively, nearly two times as many as non-Hispanic White youth, who were exposed to 2.0 advertisements per day. Girls were exposed to 30% more advertisements than boys. Most exposures were to outdoor advertisements, with television advertisements a close second.

Conclusions

Exposure to alcohol advertising is frequent among middle school–age youth and may put them at risk for earlier or more frequent underage drinking. Greater restrictions on alcohol advertising outdoors and on television should be considered by regulators and by the alcohol industry and should focus particularly on reducing exposure among minority youth.

Recommendations

  • Youth encountered about three ads per day, mostly on outdoor billboards and through television watching.
  • Girls reported more exposure to ads than boys, and African Americans and Hispanics reported more exposure than Whites.
  • Tighter restrictions on outdoor advertising of alcohol could help reduce exposure.
  • Few exposures to ads online were reported.

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