Too Many Young People Seeing Alcohol TV Ads, Study Finds

Too many young people may be exposed to alcohol ads on TV, according to new research.

A new study reveals that one in four alcohol TV ads shown in major markets don't abide by voluntary standards set by the industry, which involve not being shown during shows where at least 30 percent of the audience is under 21.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers found that 31.5 percent of alcohol TV ads in Houston, 30 percent of ads in Los Angeles, 29.7 percent of ads in Dallas, 27.6 percent of ads in Atlanta and 27.5 percent of ads in Chicago exceeded the voluntary industry standards.

"This study indicates that the alcohol industry's self-regulation of alcohol advertising could be improved," study researcher David Jernigan, Ph.D., director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement. "The potential public health pay-off in terms of reduced risk of underage drinking and harms related to it could be quite substantial."

The findings, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, are based on ad placements for alcohol in 2010 for the 10 most popular TV programs among youths in four different categories: cable sports, cable non-sports, network sports and network non-sports. Then, researchers used data from the Nielsen company to see placement of these ads in nationally aired programs.

The researchers noted that this is the first time alcohol TV ad placement has been analyzed on a local level, showing that the numbers of youths who watch the shows the ads are being placed in may differ from city to city.

"Alcohol industry codes have so far not specified whether companies should use local or national ratings data when purchasing alcohol advertising," Jernigan added in the statement. "This study suggests that by using readily-available information on the make-up of local TV audiences, advertisers could help reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising."