Study finds kids see more TV commercials for beer than for sneakers, gum or jeans

By SIOBHAN McDONOUGH, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Young Americans are exposed to more television commercials for beer than for sneakers, gum or jeans, according to a study released Tuesday.

Young people ages 12 to 20 saw two beer or ale ads in 2001 for every three such commercials aired on programs viewed primarily by adults, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University found.

"The alcohol industry monitoring their own advertising and current standards aren't protecting youth from alcohol marketing," said Jim O'Hara, the center's executive director.

The study analyzed $811 million spent on alcohol advertising on TV during 2001, representing 208,909 ads that were placed on network, cable and local broadcast outlets.

Ohio has three of the top 50 markets ranked by the number of alcohol ads aired: Cleveland at No. 27 with 65,288 ads, Columbus at No. 29 with 65,097 ads and Toledo at No. 45 with 64,363 ads, according to the study.

In each of the three cities, young people saw one beer or ale ad for every three aired on programs viewed primarily by adults, according to the study. The same held true for young television viewers in Cincinnati and Dayton.

Underage viewers were more likely than adults of legal drinking age to have been exposed to a quarter of the beer commercials aired.

Beer and ale advertising on TV amounted to $695 million. Using a system that measures how often an ad is aired and how many people are exposed to it, research found roughly 18,000 points for beer, compared with 10,000 for sneakers, 16,000 for gum and 4,000 for jeans in 2001.

The analysis included information from Competitive Media Reporting and Nielsen Media Research.

The Beer Institute said in a statement that the industry doesn't target underage consumers.

"The way to address illegal underage drinking is to encourage others to get behind programs that are working instead of wasting valuable time censoring advertising to adults of legal drinking age," the institute said.

A September 1999 Federal Trade Commission report on the alcohol industry's advertising and marketing practices urged the industry to raise the standards to reduce underage alcohol ad exposure.

The center, which is supported by grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says it is time for the FTC to review the alcohol industry's television advertising practices.

"The industry hasn't taken recommendations to heart," said O'Hara. "There are questions about whether they protect the public health of youth or just protect the economic health of industries."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)