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Underage Drinking

Commercials And Parents To Blame For Underage Drinking Habits

The issue of underage drinking is nothing new. Since the dawn of time, party-goers across the world have been drinking alcohol regardless of the legality behind it. Some say peer pressure is a major factor, others say it’s the families responsibility, and others blame the media and the culture that some television shows, movies, and especially commercials enforce onto developing young minds. Advertising has always been an extremely powerful force on society. New evidence is building that suggests the more alcohol advertisements underage individuals are exposed to, the more likely it is that they will not only start drinking, but start drinking whatever specific beverage is advertised to them the most. 

Experts working for the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs recently surveyed 1,000 individuals between the ages of 13 and 20, all who admitted to drinking alcohol within a month of the date of the survey. The researchers then asked about which of the 20 most popular television shows (not including sports due to constant alcohol advertising) the individuals watched, and which of the 61 different brands of alcohol that are advertised during the commercials of those 20 shows the individuals have consumed, and how much. 

“What [we] found is those underage drinkers who didn’t see any alcohol ads drank about 14 drinks per month. That number rose to 33 drinks per month for the young people who had seen little to an average amount of alcohol advertising. Underage drinkers exposed to the greatest amount of alcohol ads drank 200-plus drinks in the past month, though very few of those in the study drank that much,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, the lead researcher on the new study in an interview with CNN News.

Based on the data collected, Naimi and his team concluded that an increase in alcohol advertisement consumption will lead to an increase in actual alcohol consumption in underage individuals. The study also worked to prove that these individuals are drinking specifically the drinks that they see advertised the most, and proved that kids between the ages of 11 – 14 see at least two alcohol advertisements a day.

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Responsibility.org is a non-profit organization who’s sole mission is to eradicate drunk driving and underage drinking. Ralph Blackman is president and CEO, and while he agrees that advertisements definitely play a role in underage drinking rates, the biggest culprits are the parents. A recent national survey by Responsibility.org also found that almost 66% of individuals between the ages of 10 and 18 say their parents are the leading influence in regard to alcohol consumption. After parents the next leading influence was surveyed to be friends (46%), siblings, and other family members (32%). Only 14% said advertising/media affects their decision whether to drink, according to Blackman.

“While alcohol expenditures have increased, the truth of the matter is that the rate of underage drinking continues to decline. Alcohol consumption continues to show significant decreases among the nation’s eighth, 10th and 12th graders. For the three grades combined, the proportion of students reporting annual and past month alcohol consumption reached the lowest level since the study began,” according to Blackman in an interview with CNN.

While it seems that actual social relationships have the most impact on underage individuals when it comes to drinking, advertising does play a role. Most alcohol companies have their own personal set of regulations in terms of advertising, and more times than not that means that if they break the guidelines, there won’t be any repercussions since it’s the own companies policy. “I think one of the implications for the broader society is that currently our controls on television advertising for alcohol are minimal and they’re self-regulatory, so I think we should definitely tighten up that some,” Naimi said.

Responsibility.org has a whole section for parents to support their #TalkMore Campaign, which encourages parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of starting to drink when you’re underage. The website even has it’s own section giving a bunch of tips on how to make the conversation as easy as possible. They also encourage you monitor your kids screen times, especially if they’re young, the internet in general is full of millions of advertisements and influences telling your kids what they should or shouldn’t do in order to be seen as cool. The biggest tip from all of these professional outlets, is to be present and aware of the information your child is consuming, and to make sure they have all the facts regarding how toxic substances affect their developing bodies.