Watching cable TV may expose teens to too many alcohol ads


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Teens soak up more than plot lines while watching cable TV -- they’re also being exposed to too much alcohol advertising.

That’s the conclusion of a new study that looked at what teens watched on cable, and how often alcohol ads popped up during those shows. Previously, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth analyzed more than 1 million alcohol industry ads between 2001 and 2004 on broadcast, cable and local television and found big numbers of underage youth were exposed to them. This prompted the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine in 2003 to call for reforms of the alcohol industry’s marketing codes and practices, and the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States agreed to limit ads when underage viewers made up 30% or less of the audience.


In this study, researchers found that 608,591 ads were placed in 205,592 unique time slots on national cable networks between 2001 and 2006. From 2004 to 2006 beer and spirit ad placement increased overall and in time slots with more than 30% underage viewers, compared with ads from 2001 to 2003.

They also discovered that as adolescent viewership increased by one percentage point, beer ads increased 7%, ads for spirits went up 15%, and ads for alcopop (flavored and often sweetened alcoholic beverages) increased 22%.

While the study didn’t examine whether or not advertisers were specifically targeting teen audiences (and they say they don’t), lead author Dr. Paul Chung said in a news release, ‘[T]he ultimate effect of their advertising strategies, intentional or not, appears to be greater exposure than might be expected if adults were the sole targets of ads.’ Chung is assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times