American children are being overexposed to television beer ads, according to a study released today by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.
The report says that 24.5% of the advertising time bought by alcohol companies was scheduled in programming more likely to be seen by youngsters than adults.
The study reports that people under the drinking age saw two Coors Light ads for every three seen by adults. It also charged that $1.8 million was spent to air 3,262 ads on programming that had more youth than adult viewers.
Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, said his group is still reviewing the study and won't make any formal comment about the specifics pending the review, but added that anyone who suggests the industry "intends" to target underage consumers is "wrong."
David Kessler, dean of the Yale University School of Medicine and a former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, called for stronger efforts from the government and industry to limit alcohol ads.
"No one disputes the right of the industry to advertise, but who is protecting the
interests of children?" Dr. Kessler said.
The Beer Institute's Mr. Becker questioned the need for further restrictions citing a University of Michigan study released Monday that showed a decline in alcohol use by junior high and high school students.
The report said alcohol ads appearing in programming reaching more than 15.6% of the U.S. population overexpose children to the ads because that is the same percentage of young people aged 12 to 20 in the country.
Some in the advertising and alcohol industry reacted strongly to that finding. They said that if used as a measure to limit advertising, it would bar marketers from advertising even in programming that had a majority of adult viewers.
The Federal Trade Commission has previously suggested that some advertisers should stay away from media popular with underage teens, even when the majority of the audience was comprised of adults. That controversial suggestion, which appeared in a study of entertainment marketing, was never implemented.
Today, Dr. Kessler and Jim O'Hara, the center's director, said the recommendation should be implemented.
"The current industry guidelines don't work," Dr. Kessler said.
Mr. O'Hara said the question of how much to allow is "the policy debate that needs to happen."
Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. December 17, 2002
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