The Real Cost of Alcohol Advertising: Our Kids' Lives

By the age of 16 most kids will have seen 75,000 ads for alcohol. In the year 2000, brewers spent over $770 million on television and another $15 million on radio ads. That is three quarters of a billion dollars. Young people view 20,000 commercials each year, and nearly 2,000 are for beer and wine. For each anti-alcohol/drug public service announcement teenagers see there are 25-50 more advertisements that entice them to drink alcohol.
The fourth leading cause of death among persons ages 10 to 24 is alcohol. To date drunken driving deaths are beginning to rise among teenagers. Underage drinking costs Americans nearly $53 billion. Alcohol abuse is the number one drug problem young people are experiencing in the United States right now. Additionally, alcohol is a major factor in the three leading causes of death for youth which include suicide, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide, and is linked to two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens as well as college students. Right now in the United States, the average age kids begin to drink is 12-years-old. One of the most widespread and overlooked problems in our nation today is alcohol abuse. The rise of underage drinking teamed up alcohol advertising will most likely increase the use of alcohol in today's society. Additionally, people that start using alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction at some point in their lives, compared to those who start drinking at the legal age of 21.
Advertising and other media messages play a big role in setting social standards concerning underage drinking. It has been proven that beer advertisements influence current drinking behavior, as well as intentions to drink. They can significantly predict an adolescent's preference, knowledge and loyalty for alcohol.
A voluntary ban has been followed by the members of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. on TV since 1948 and on radio since 1936. The ban was broken in 1996, and funds allocated for the advertising alcohol have increased dramatically for commercials that are mainly found on cable channels. In spring 2002 a major television network indicated that it would start accepting hard liquor advertisements after 9 p.m. Airing of these liquor ads marks the end of half a century of restraint by national networks. The alcohol industry contends that ads have nothing to do with consumption or harm. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "does not rule out the existence of a clinically important effect of advertising on youth drinking decisions."
Contrary to the FTC's statement, the alcoholic beverage industry clearly thinks different because the use and abuse of alcohol has been viewed in over 233 motion pictures and in more than one episode of over 181 different television series in a one year period. Alcohol brewers are also lead sponsors of many musical and sporting events, displays, billboards and all types of insignia.
Many alcohol ads depict good-looking people having fun and enjoying alcohol, while the reality of alcohol abuse and the dwindling spiral of addiction is quite different. Alcohol is a drug that kills more people than all illegal drugs combined and promoting its use will only encourage and attract new, young users.

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