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Alcohol Ad Exposure to Youth Is Declining

Youth Exposed to Fewer Alcohol Ads on Cable TV, Study Finds

Rockville, Md.  –  Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on cable TV in the U.S. declined from 2018 to 2019, according to a study by Abt Associates and researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health. The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that total youth exposure to alcohol ads on cable TV decreased from 13.8 billion in 2018 to 10.1 billion in 2019, a 26.5 percent decline. The study also measured compliance with the alcohol industry’s voluntary ad placement guidelines to prevent overexposure to youth. The study found that violations of the guidelines decreased from 2.2 percent of exposures in 2018 to 1.5 percent in 2019. The most pronounced decline was a drop from 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter (October 1 through December 31) of 2018 to 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019.

A noncompliant alcohol ad is one placed on a TV program in which youth (individuals under age 21) exceed 28.4 percent of the televised viewing audience, which is the percentage of the population under 21 in the 2010 Census. Noncompliant exposure was defined as the number of advertising impressions seen by youth ages 2 to 20 as a result of noncompliant advertisements.

While the percentage of ads that are noncompliant appears small, the volume of ads these percentages represent is quite large. During 2018 and 2019, youth were exposed 23.9 billion times to alcohol advertising on cable TV; about 454 million ads were on programs that had larger youth audiences than the guidelines allow. Noncompliant exposures were reduced by almost half, declining from 300 million impressions in 2018 to 153 million in 2019.   

Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to an average of more than 3,500 deaths among people under age 21 each year and is associated with many other health risk behaviors, including smoking, physical fighting, and high-risk sexual activity. At least 25 longitudinal studies and more than 20 cross-sectional studies have found that youth exposure to alcohol advertising is associated with the initiation of alcohol consumption by youth, the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking occasion, and adverse health consequences.

In addition to measuring youth exposure to alcohol ads, the report provides no-buy lists of programs and a list of program time slots that generated high levels of noncompliant exposure.

Read more.

This report was supported by contract number 200-2019-F-05607 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that uses data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. From combatting infectious disease and conducting rigorous program evaluations, to ensuring safe drinking water and promoting access to affordable housing—and more—we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges.

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