Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in Magazines --- United States, 2001--2005

DH Jernigan, PhD; J Ostroff; CS Ross, MBA; TS Naimi, MD; RD Brewer, MD

Disclosures

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2007;56(30):763-767. 

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Alcohol consumption among persons aged 12--20 years contributes to the three leading causes of death (unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide) in this age group in the United States and is associated with other health-risk behaviors, including high-risk sexual activity, smoking, and physical fighting.[1] Recent studies have documented the contribution of alcohol marketing to underage drinking.[2,3] In 2000, the trade association for the wine industry changed its voluntary marketing code to stop advertising in magazines in which youths aged 12--20 years were >30% of the audience. In 2003, this threshold was adopted by the trade associations for beer and liquor producers. To determine the proportion of alcohol advertisements placed in magazines with disproportionately large youth readerships (i.e., >15% of readers aged 12--20 years) and to assess the proportion of youths exposed to these advertisements, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University, District of Columbia) evaluated the placement of alcohol advertisements in 143 national magazines for which readership composition data were available for 2001--2005; these 143 publications accounted for approximately 90% of expenditures for all alcohol advertising in national print magazines. This report summarizes the results of that study, which indicated that alcohol advertising remained common in magazines with >15% youth readership but decreased substantially in magazines with >30% youth readership. These results suggest that although voluntary industry standards have reduced youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines, strengthening these standards by establishing a >15% youth readership threshold would further reduce exposure. In addition, independent monitoring of youth exposure to alcohol advertising should continue, as recommended by the U.S. Congress[4] and Surgeon General.[5]

In this study, underage youths were defined as persons aged 12--20 years. Age 12 years is the youngest age at which exposure to magazine advertising is tracked, and age 21 years is the minimum age at which persons can legally purchase alcohol in all U.S. states. Youth-oriented magazines were defined as those in which youth readership exceeded the proportion of youths aged 12--20 years in the general population (i.e., >15%[6]). Alcohol advertising in magazines was assessed at two levels of youth readership. The first level was magazines in which the proportion of youth readers exceeded 15%; this is the threshold above which the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (NRC/IOM) recommend that alcohol companies refrain from advertising.[7] The second level was magazines in which the proportion of youth readers exceeded 30%, which is twice their proportion in the general population and the threshold above which the major alcohol companies have agreed to refrain from alcohol advertising.

Data on advertising in print versions of national magazines that included alcohol advertisements (lists available at http://www.camy.org) were obtained from TNS Media Intelligence (formerly CMR, New York, New York), which monitors advertising in 394 national magazines and collects information about total advertising expenditures by industry type. Data on readership demographics were obtained from population-based surveys conducted by Mediamark Research, Inc. (New York, New York), which reports readership estimates for approximately 250 of the largest national magazines (not all of which include alcohol advertising). Advertisements that were alcohol related but that primarily promoted responsible drinking (approximately 3% of all alcohol advertisements) were excluded from the analysis. In the advertising industry, the total number of advertisements viewed by a particular demographic group is referred to as the gross number of impressions; this number includes repeat exposures for readers who saw more than one advertisement in a magazine or multiple advertisements for a particular brand in different magazines. Advertising impressions were calculated by multiplying the magazine-specific annual number of readers aged 12--20 years by the number of advertising placements for each publication that year and summing them across magazines.

Of the approximately 250 national magazines that were monitored for advertising placement and readership composition during 2001--2005, 143 included alcohol advertising. This advertising accounted for 86.3% of spending on alcohol advertising in national magazines in 2001, 93.1% of 2002 spending, 93.9% of 2003 spending, 93.0% of 2004 spending, and 93.1% of 2005 spending. Of the 143 publications, 51 (36.7%) had >15% youth readership, and nine (6.3%) had >30% youth readership in any year during 2001--2005. Occurrence and readership data were available for 16,635 individual advertisements for 391 alcohol brands that appeared in the 143 magazines during 2001--2005.

The number and proportion of alcohol advertisements that appeared in magazines with >15% youth readership (i.e., those with >15%--30% plus those with >30% youth readership) decreased from 1,867 (51.6% of all advertisements) in 2001 to 1,281 (44.2%) in 2005. From 2001 to 2005, in magazines with >15%--30% youth readership, the number of advertisements decreased 14.3% (from 1,485 in 2001 to 1,272 in 2005), whereas the proportion of alcohol advertisements in these magazines increased 6.9% (from 41.1% to 43.9%) ( Table 1 ). The proportion of alcohol advertisements in magazines with >30% youth readership decreased 97.6% during this period (from 10.6% [382 advertisements] in 2001 to 0.3% [nine advertisements] in 2005). Therefore, most of the decreases in advertisement placements in magazines with >15% youth readership were a result of fewer advertisements in magazines with >30% youth readership. During the study period, the largest decreases in numbers of advertisements in youth-oriented magazines were for those advertising liquor and beer (Figure 1), both at the >15% and >30% levels. Advertisements for wine remained low at both thresholds throughout the study period.

Figure 1.

Percentage of alcohol advertisements in magazines,* by composition of youth readership,-- beverage type, and year -- United States, 2001-2005

During 2001--2005, total youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines decreased 46.9% (from approximately 5.74 billion impressions in 2001 to 3.05 billion in 2005) ( Table 1 ). During this period, exposure among those aged ≥21 years decreased 25.0%. The proportion of youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines with >15% youth readership decreased 7.6% (from 89.3% in 2001 to 82.5% in 2005). The proportion of youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines with >30% youth readership decreased 95.5% (from 20.8% in 2001 to 0.9% in 2005), whereas the proportion of youth exposure in magazines with >15%--30% youth readership increased 19.1% (from 68.5% in 2001 to 81.6% in 2005).

Liquor accounted for most alcohol advertising in magazines in all study years and for 1,909 (65.9%) of 2,897 advertisements in 2005 ( Table 2 ). In 2005, nine (0.3%) alcohol advertisements appeared in magazines with >30% youth readership. In magazines with >15%--30% youth readership, liquor accounted for 879 (69.1%) of 1,272 advertisements, and beer accounted for 291 (22.9%) of advertisements. However, premixed alcoholic beverages (also known as "alcopops," which are flavored, premixed drinks such as hard lemonade) had the largest proportion of advertisements in magazines with >15%--30% youth readership (90.9%), followed by beer (56.0%), liquor (46.0%), and wine (18.4%). Liquor (67.9%) and beer (23.8%) advertisements accounted for most youth exposure to alcohol advertising overall ( Table 2 ). The beverage-specific proportions of youth exposure accounted for by advertising in magazines with >15%--30% youth readership ranged from 64.6% for wine to 98.7% for premixed alcoholic beverages.

The proportion of alcohol advertisements placed in magazines with disproportionately large youth audiences varied considerably by brand, even within beverage categories. Of the 201 alcohol brands advertised in magazines in 2005, a total of 36 brands placed all of their advertising in magazines with >15% youth readership, 38 brands placed more than half of their advertising in these magazines, 39 had half or less of their advertising in these magazines, and 88 brands had no advertising in these magazines (listing of brands available at http://www.camy.org).

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