Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, 2008 and 2009
Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to approximately 4,700 deaths among underage youth each year, and in 2006 resulted in approximately $27 billion in economic costs.1,2 Among African-American high school students nearly 65 percent report having had at least a sip of alcohol and an estimated 25 percent report drinking alcohol for the first time before age 13.3 Alcohol is the most widely used drug among African-American youth3 and contributes to many health and social problems, including violence, motor vehicle crashes, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.4,5 The relationship between alcohol use and violence in African-American youth is bidirectional: Early alcohol use predicts later violent behavior,6 and early violent behavior predicts later alcohol use.7
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), about one in three African-American high school students in the U.S. are current drinkers, and about 40 percent of those who drink report binge drinking (≥ 5 drinks in a row).3 Alcohol use by youth is also known to be strongly related to alcohol use in adulthood. While current alcohol use and binge drinking tend to be less common among African-American adults than among other racial and ethnic groups, African-American adults who binge drink (≥ 4 drinks per occasion for women and ≥ 5 per occasion for men) tend to do so frequently (4.7 episodes per month) and with high intensity (number of drinks, 6.8 drinks per occasion).8 African-American adults also report higher levels of alcohol-related social consequences (relationship, employment, financial, and legal problems),9 with no evidence of any protective effect from light or moderate alcohol consumption,10,11 and a high prevalence of alcohol-related disease morbidity and mortality, including cardiovascular disease and hypertension.12
At least 14 longitudinal studies have found a significant association between youth exposure to alcohol marketing and underage drinking, even after controlling for other factors that could potentially influence this relationship (e.g., socioeconomic status and parenting style).13 Specifically, these studies have found that youth exposure to alcohol marketing can increase the likelihood that young people will start drinking at younger ages, and, if they already consume alcohol, that they will drink more, increasing the risk of alcohol-attributable harms. Research has also shown that young people who initiate drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and five or more times as likely to experience alcohol-related injuries as those who wait until age 21 to start drinking.14, 15
Alcohol companies have gradually adopted more stringent standards for placement of their advertising. By 2003, trade associations for all three divisions of the industry—beer, wine, and distilled spirits—had set the maximum percentage of underage audiences where member companies would place their advertising at 30 percent. The four broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—until recently all maintained a ban on distilled spirits advertising, though they permitted it to be aired by their wholly owned local affiliates. In addition, several cable networks do not accept alcohol advertising, including MTV, Disney, and Nickelodeon.
Nonetheless, numerous studies have documented that African-Americans are exposed to more alcohol advertising than other populations. In 2003, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that African-American youth are overexposed to alcohol advertising on TV and radio, and in magazines. A number of other studies have found that African-Americans, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, are overexposed to alcohol advertising on billboards and in other outdoor locations.16-19 Some rap and hip-hop music, which are popular genres among youth in general, is replete with references to alcohol products and imagery. These messages may have a different impact on African-American youth in particular, who may listen closely to the lyrics and be more inclined than white adolescents to perceive them as informative about life.20 A recent content analysis of the most popular rap songs from 1998 to 2009 found that from 2002 to 2005, 64 percent of the songs contained alcohol references.21 This is significantly higher than the 44 percent found with references from 1994 to 1997 in a previous analysis.22 Another recent analysis of alcohol brand mentions in American popular music found that such mentions were most frequent in rap (63 percent of songs with alcohol brand mentions) and R&B/hip-hop (24 percent).23
In keeping with CAMY’s mission of monitoring youth exposure to alcohol advertising, the goals of this report were to: (1) analyze alcohol advertising exposure by type and brand among African-American youth ages 12–20 in comparison to all youth ages 12–20; and (2) assess the exposure of African-American youth ages 12–20 to alcohol advertising relative to African-American adults and all adults, and thus the extent to which African-American youth were overexposed to alcohol advertising relative to adults in magazines, on radio, and on television.
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