Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to an average of 4,350 deaths among people under age 21 each year, and is associated with many other health risk behaviors, including smoking, physical fighting, and high-risk sexual activity. At least 25 longitudinal studies affirmed that youth exposure to alcohol advertising is associated with the initiation of alcohol consumption by youth, the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking occasion, and adverse health consequences. A new report by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health examined non-compliant alcohol advertising exposure on cable TV that aired in 2015 and 2016. The report identified 25 alcohol brands that were responsible for the largest amount of non-compliant alcohol advertising exposure, and assessed the brand-specific distribution of non-compliant exposure using no-buy list criteria. The report also identified 25 programs and network-dayparts that were responsible for the largest amount of non-compliant alcohol advertising exposure. The study found that in the 2-year period, about 1 in 13 alcohol advertising impressions viewed on cable TV by youth under the legal drinking age did not comply with the alcohol industry’s voluntary placement guideline. This resulted in 2.5 billion non-compliant underage impressions during these two years. Youth exposure to alcohol advertising has been associated with the initiation of underage drinking, consuming a larger amount of alcohol, and adverse health and social problems. Reducing this exposure is an important priority for the prevention of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms among youth.
An ad for beer on the New York City subway
Last month, reported The New York Times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted to ban advertising of alcoholic beverages on New York City buses, subway cars and stations, contending that the social benefits of deterring underage drinking outweighed the loss of revenue. After years of pressure from grass-roots organizations, the board voted unanimously in favor of the ban, which will go into effect in January. Advocates have long said that alcohol advertising is a public health issue and that the proliferation of such advertising increases the likelihood of underage drinking. “Alcohol advertisements on the M.T.A. are disproportionally targeting communities of color, lower-income communities and also young people,” said Jazmin Rivera, a spokeswoman for Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit.
In a letter to the editor responding to the article, David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote “subways are the way many New York City young people get to school every day. The M.T.A.’s decision will help reduce their exposure to alcohol advertising, and is a significant step in the right direction.”