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Alcohol Advertising and Promotion

Excerpts from The Surgeon General's Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking

All text in this fact sheet is excerpted directly from The Surgeon General's Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, a 2007 report from the Office of the Surgeon General (emphases added).

The alcohol industry has a public responsibility relating to the marketing of its product, since its use is illegal for more than 80 million underage Americans. That responsibility can be fulfilled through products and advertising design and placement that meet these criteria (Surgeon General's Call to Action, page 43):

  • The message adolescents receive through the billions of dollars spent on industry advertising and responsibility campaigns does not portray alcohol as an appropriate rite of passage from childhood to adulthood or as an essential element in achieving popularity, social success, or a fulfilling life1 (Call to Action, page 44).
  • The placement of alcohol advertising, promotions, and other means of marketing do not disproportionately expose youth to messages about alcohol (Call to Action, page 44).
  • No alcohol product is designed or advertised to disproportionately appeal to youth or to influence youth by sending the message that its consumption is an appropriate way for minors to learn to drink or that any form of alcohol is acceptable for drinking by those under the age of 21 (Call to Action, page 44).
  • The content and design of industry Web sites and Internet alcohol advertising do not especially attract or appeal to adolescents or others under the legal drinking age (Call to Action, page 44).

Because of their reach and potential impact, the entertainment and media industries have a responsibility to the public in the way they choose to depict alcohol use, especially by those under the age of 21, in motion pictures, television programming, music, and video games. That responsibility can be fulfilled by creating and distributing entertainment that (Call to Action, page 44):

  • Does not glamorize underage alcohol use (Call to Action, page 44).
  • Does not present any form of underage drinking in a favorable light, especially when entertainment products are targeted toward underage audiences or likely to be viewed or heard by them (Call to Action, page 45).
  • Seeks to present a balanced portrayal of alcohol use, including its attendant risks (Call to Action, page 45).
  • Avoids gratuitous portrayals of alcohol use in motion pictures and television shows that target children as a major audience. This is important because children's expectations toward alcohol and its use are, in part, based on what they see on the screen2 (Call to Action, page 45).

Given the prevalence of underage drinking on college campuses, institutions of higher education should examine their policies and practices on alcohol use by their students and the extent to which they may directly or indirectly encourage, support, or facilitate underage alcohol use. Colleges and universities can change a campus culture that contributes to underage alcohol use. Some measures to consider are to (Call to Action, page 40-41):

  • Eliminate alcohol sponsorship of athletic events and other campus social activities (Call to Action, page 41).
  • Eliminate alcohol advertising in college publications (Call to Action, page 41).

A number of strategies can contribute to a culture that discourages adults from providing alcohol to minors and that supports an adolescent's decision not to drink. Communities can (Call to Action, page 42):

  • Work with sponsors of community or ethnic holiday events to ensure that such events do not promote a culture in which underage drinking is acceptable (Call to Action, page 42).
  • Urge the alcohol industry to voluntarily reduce outdoor alcohol advertising (Call to Action, page 42).

State, Tribal, and local public health agencies; policymakers; and the general public need complete and timely information on patterns and trends in youth alcohol consumption in order to develop and evaluate prevention strategies (Call to Action, page 68).

  • Conduct ongoing public health surveillance on the type(s) of alcohol and the quantity and frequency with which they are used by age (Call to Action, page 68).
  • Conduct ongoing, independent monitoring of alcohol marketing to youth to ensure compliance with advertising standards (Call to Action, page 68).

Notes

  1. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission currently is conducting a study of alcohol advertising and marketing, including the effectiveness of industry efforts to prevent undue exposure of youth to messages about alcohol.
  2. M. E. Dunn, M.E. and R. M. Yniguez, "Experimental demonstration of the influence of alcohol advertising on the activation of alcohol expectancies in memory among fourth-and fifth-grade children," Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 7 (1999):473-483; A. D. Kulick and H. Rosenberg, "Influence of positive and negative film portrayals of drinking on older adolescents' alcohol outcome expectancies," Journal of Applied Social Psychology 31 (2001):1492; J. D. Sargent, T. A. Wills, M. Stoolmiller, et al, "Alcohol use in motion pictures and its relation with early-onset teen drinking," Journal of Studies on Alcohol 67 (2006):54-65.

Copyright 2010, The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth

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