American youth, aged 12 to 20, saw more alcoholic beverage ads in 2001 than did people of legal drinking age, according to a recent study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

“Total youth exposure to beer and distilled spirits advertising in print in 2001 was systematic and pervasive,” the report claimed. The research indicated that youth saw 45 percent more beer and ale ads and 27 percent more distilled spirits ads than did adults.

“Low-alcohol refreshers,” “malternatives” or “alcopops” like Smirnoff Ice and Doc Otis Hard Lemon Malt Beverage delivered 60 percent more advertising to youth than adults.

Alcohol ads aren’t reaching teens by accident. The report showed that ad dollars followed youth audiences.

Ten magazines with a youth readership of 25 percent accounted for nearly one-third of all alcohol advertising—Vibe, Spin, Rolling Stone, Allure, Car and Driver, Maxim, Glamour, Motor Trend, In Style and Sports Illustrated.

Sports Illustrated carried nearly $40 million in alcohol ads last year. Its No. 1 customer—Jack Daniels Whiskey.

Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey also paid top dollar for ad spots in Sports Illustrated, Maxim, Rolling Stone and Spin. Teens could also see ads for Fosters Beer, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Heineken Beer and Beefeater Gin among others.

Wine ads seem to be the only alcohol ads being viewed more by adults than teens, according to the report.

“The consequences of underage drinking are real and tragic,” read the report. “Alcohol use plays a substantial role in all three leading causes of death among youth—unintentional injuries (including motor vehicle fatalities and drownings), suicides and homicides.”

The report noted that children who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until the age of 21.

With 16.6 percent of eighth-graders reporting having been drunk at least once in the past year, according to a federal survey, “restricting access to alcohol and reducing its appeal to underage youth” should be at the forefront of public health strategy to reduce underage drinking.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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