Alcohol Advertising on Social Media

Teens don’t have to buy glossy magazines or watch television in order to come across ads extolling the supposed fun and glamor of drinking. All a teen has to do is check out Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

The Australian Medical Association has already issued a call to look at marketing practices. Of particular concern is alcohol advertising on social media and its impact on teens.

Groups here in the U.S. share similar concerns about this trend, and nations around the globe are working to figure out the best way to limit kids’ exposure.

Alcohol Advertising Works

Studies tell us that greater exposure to alcohol advertising increases the likelihood that a person will drink, which leads to more drinking for the person who already indulges. Since most people check their phones over 100 times each day, there’s a windfall in advertising opportunities.

Mashable, a source of news for all things related to the Internet, says teens spend close to seven hours each month visiting social media sites. A Pew Research study of Internet use in 2009 found that 73 percent of U.S. teens were using social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram. Consumer Reports found that, in the case of Facebook, many users are very young.

The Failure of Security and Self-Regulation

Facebook requires a person to be at least 13-years-old to open an account, but according to Consumer Reports over one-third of users under 21 lied about their age. That means that lots of preteen children are being exposed to these ads.

Alcohol ads on social sites and viral marketing programs are selling alcohol to kids way below the legal drinking age. In many countries, including our own, government has depended upon the alcohol industry to self-regulate when, where and to whom they market their product. But self-regulation just isn’t working.

It’s true that many alcohol companies in the U.S. have voluntarily agreed not to exploit advertising channels where 28.4 percent or more of the viewers would be below the legal drinking age. Nonetheless, advertisements are maximizing social media and limiting the viewing on most of those outlets is nearly impossible.

The British have made efforts to limit alcohol advertising that appeals to younger audiences, as have the Dutch. In Holland, the government forbade alcohol ads during what is considered family television viewing hours of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. However, when that tactic was tried in the U.S. they found that playing the ads later in the night actually increased teen exposure since teens increase their viewing after 9 p.m..

More Teens Exposed to Alcohol Advertising

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) say that teen exposure to alcohol advertising exploded by 71 percent between 2001 and 2009. Companies use hip music, young actors and music to reach out to younger audiences. Evidently black teens have the greatest exposure to alcohol marketing compared to the overall teen population, with 32 percent more magazine ads reaching them in 2008 than all other young people, and 17 percent more exposure via TV.

The Institute of Medicine was recently joined by 24 states attorney generals in calling for tighter controls over alcohol advertising on the Internet. Just like the doctors in Australia, physicians, lawmakers and those who monitor youth culture here are asking for the government to do something.

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