Alcohol Ads on TV Subtly Coerce Underage Drinking

What we see is what we tend to believe. And if it is something done purportedly to coax people into taking some action, like the countless advertisements that flash across television screens, the impact could be long-lasting. Strongly corroborating this belief is a recent study, which says that alcohol brand placements on TV have a far greater impact on the youth watching them.

Alcohol advertising on TV promotes underage drinking. Viewing such enticing ads undeniably lures the impressionable minds of adolescents into drinking that needs to be addressed, the researchers feel.

The study, titled “Alcohol Brand Placement in Television Shows: A Content Coding Analysis and Comparison with Youth Brand Preference,” says that there is a greater presence of alcohol brands on TV these days. While tobacco companies have been barred from placing their product advertisements on television since 2000, alcohol brands still enjoy some immunity and have a free run.

The study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in May 2016, was conducted on more than 2,600 youths aged between 15 and 20, who were quizzed about their TV watching habits. The researchers asked them how much they watched the 10 most popular TV shows, along with questions about their drinking behavior and favorite alcohol brand.

Higher visibility translates into deeper percolation for alcohol brands

The study results showed that brands that were more prominent and visible across TV shows were more popular among underage youth who invariably chose them as their favorite brands. Budweiser, Dos Equis, and Heineken are some of the most visible alcohol brands on the national television. No wonder, these alcohol brands have a strong influence over the youth of the country.

The study also found that the youths with higher levels of watching TV shows with more prominent brand placement reported higher levels of problematic drinking behavior, like binge drinking.

Alcohol regulation needs revamp

The researchers said more stringent alcohol regulations should be formulated by the government as the current ones hugely fail to deliver. “The current approach to alcohol self-regulation in television media represents a failure of our government to protect children from alcohol industry marketing,” said lead author Joy Gabrielli, Ph.D., a clinical child psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at Dartmouth College & Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

“Despite alcohol company reports in a 2012 Federal Trade Commission summary that they pay little for brand placement of their products, highly advertised brands appeared commonly in some TV shows popular with underage youth. This raises the question of whether companies are accurately reporting such payments to government regulators,” Gabrielli said.

Parental intervention

Parents play a key role in preventing their children from watching TV shows that promote alcohol brands. “Parents should be aware that it is highly likely their children will be exposed to alcohol brand placements if they watch TV shows rated TV-PG or higher, and that this could affect their drinking behavior,” Gabrielli said.

Available treatment options

Alcoholism is curable with the right treatment intervention programs. While severe alcoholism needs inpatient addiction treatment centers, the milder ones can be treated in outpatient centers also. The inpatient addiction treatment centers are especially good and are reputed in the country.

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