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Less Alcohol Advertising Makes No Difference

The world is turned upside down. All of the neo-prohibitionist groups have been complaining for a very long time, since 1933 in fact, that alcohol advertising has to be severely restricted. The moment the 21st Amendment passed, ending Prohibition, the temperance groups didn’t admit defeat and start minding their own business but simply changed tactics. Instead of trying to make alcohol illegal for everyone, they tried to make it harder and more expensive for the companies to do business and harder for the consumers who wanted it to find it and/or afford it.

That’s a strategy they’ve continued to push over the past 75+ years, and in fact they’ve really stepped up those efforts lately. That’s why the anti-alcohol groups are constantly trying to get taxes on alcohol raised. It’s also why they’re trying to to get more and more restrictions on how and where alcohol can be advertised. One of their most persistent claims is supposedly how harmful alcohol ads are to young people. They’ve even got their own “studies” to prove it.

A recent one by the Center on Marketing Alcohol and Youth (CAMY) begins with the premise that “there is growing evidence that youth (defined as 12-20 years olds) exposure to alcohol advertising increases the likelihood and quantity of underage drinking.” Back in 2003, because of the whining of the anti-alcohol groups, the major alcohol companies pledged to reduce their advertising in publications that also included underage readers.

So CAMY last week released the results of a study they conducted to see the Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in National Magazines, 2001-2008. The study found the following:

Overall, in other words, they found that there’s far less ads in publications which young people might read. Which is what they wanted, right? So you’d think they’d be happy, wouldn’t you? But here’s the thing. They continue to proselytize that young people are drinking more and more, even right in the study itself, which gives the following background. “More young people in the U.S. drink alcohol every month than smoke cigarettes or use any illegal drug. In 2008, 10.1 million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking in the past month, and 6.6 million reported binge drinking.”

So let’s see if I have this straight. The study shows, as Health Day reports, “alcohol makers have largely met the industry’s voluntary standard (adopted in 2003) of not placing ads in magazines with 30 percent or more youth readership.” And yet underage drinking continues to soar according to these same groups. Is it just me, or does that seem contradictory? If kids seeing ads for alcohol is the huge problem they claim it is, wouldn’t you expect that if there are fewer ads directed at children, that underage drinking would decrease. But that’s not apparently what’s happened. So maybe it’s time for the neo-prohibitionists to admit these ads weren’t the big problem they claimed and their self-serving studies were as bogus as a three-dollar bill.

I shouldn’t even have to explain how ridiculous it is that a magazine should lose advertising at a time when all print publications are having a hell of time making ends meet just because what they write about appeals to both adults and people under 21. Why, for example, should Rolling Stone — with a 12-20 year-old readership of around 25% — not advertise to the 75% of its readers who are legal adults just because both adults and young people enjoy music. And who came up with the 12-20 range? I can’t imagine how a twelve-year old reacts to an alcohol ad is remotely similar to a twenty-year old. That they consider all kids in that age range as the same seriously calls into question the entire exercise. Eighteen-to-twenty year olds (who incidentally should be allowed to legally drink) might be swayed by alcohol advertising if they’re alcoholically active, but a twelve-year old? It’s absurd.

The study did show that while wine and liquor dropped across the board, beer did rise slightly to fill the void. But while this is undoubtedly an unpopular idea, I much prefer my kids might see a beer ad over something laden with high fructose corn syrup, like soda, pop or soft drinks. Beer at least is all-natural and is not loaded with chemicals like soda. And last time I checked, it was still illegal for kids to actually buy beer. So no matter how the little darlings react to the horror of seeing an advertisement for beer, it really shouldn’t matter one wit. They still can’t buy it. Before the angry comments begin, I realize that underage kids can manage to get their hands on booze, but that sill doesn’t change the fact that it’s already illegal. It’s still not a valid argument why adults shouldn’t be allowed to see a beer ad in a publication that someone under 21 might also happen to see. And guess what, it’s not working anyway. Reducing the ads themselves has not resulted in kids under 21 drinking less, in fact just the opposite if we accept the anti-alcohol faction’s own propaganda. Their own studies seem to show that reducing those ads — as they insisted was necessary — is having almost no impact on underage drinking.

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