Academics and advertising executives alike will have to acknowledge that exposure to alcohol advertising increases the likelihood of underage drinking, according to a recent study conducted funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The national study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, tested the relationship between exposure to alcohol advertising on television, radio, billboards and newspapers and the number of drinks consumed by underage persons monthly. The survey relied on self-reported data.

“Excessive alcohol kills over 4,000 kids under age 21 each year,” David Jernigan, the executive director of Georgetown’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, said in a university press release. Jernigan wrote an editorial endorsing the study’s findings in the same issue of the journal. “Now we have long-term, peer-reviewed evidence that alcohol ads are contributing to this enormous public health problem.”

Conducted by Leslie Snyder and colleagues from the University of Connecticut and Colorado State University, the study is the first to reveal the critical link between exposure and consumption by showing that one additional dollar spent per capita on alcohol ads corresponded to a 3 percent increase in the rate of underage consumption.

Separate studies by CAMY supported the idea that youth are significantly more exposed to alcohol advertising than adults age 21 and over.

“The new study shows that reducing teen access to alcohol is only one part of the solution,” Jernigan said in the press release. “We must also limit the appeal.”

Along with many others in the public health field, he proposed a plan to reduce underage consumption without hurting advertising companies. By limiting the placement of ads to media groups where young people aged 12 to 20 compose less than 15 percent of viewers, alcohol companies would reduce exposure by 20 percent without substantially affecting their ability to reach other young people of legal drinking age, according to the press release.

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