Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on TV, driven by distilled spirits messages on cable, increased 71% between 2001 and 2009 in the U.S., according to a report released by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.
The makers of those spirits panned the study as careless at best and biased at worst.
While CAMY concedes efforts by the industry to strengthen self-regulation, it says the average number of alcohol ads per year seen by young people increased from 217 in 2001 to 366 in 2009. The beer and distilled spirits industries agreed back in 2003 to place their ads only in shows, whose composition of underage audiences was 30% or less, compared to the previous threshold of 50% or less.
Those results were based on research by 2.7 million ads -- $8 billion worth -- over that nine-year period. The study also found that youth under the legal drinking age were 22 times as likely to see an alcohol ad as a responsible drinking PSA.
"Numerous long-term studies have determined that exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing increases the likelihood that young people will start drinking, or that they will drink more if they are already consuming alcohol," said CAMY, which called for tightening industry standards.
The Distilled Spirits Council dismissed the findings and pointed to continuing declines in underage drinking.
"Once again, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth's report appears to be at best careless and at worst, another example of biased advocacy research," the group said in a statement. "CAMY director David Jernigan's conclusion that the '[i]ndustry standards need to be tightened to protect youth from alcohol marketing' ignores the fact that while advertising on cable television increased from 2001-2009, the latest federal government statistics released yesterday show that alcohol consumption rates among 8th, 10th and 12th graders have continuously declined during this same period and are at historic lows."
"DISCUS and its member companies have been and remain totally opposed to underage drinking and believe that early and persistent education supported by tough laws and strong enforcement are the key factors in this long-term progress," said DISCUS president Dr. Peter Cressy.