The Dangers of Alcohol Advertisement

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

There is no denying it. Alcohol is well and truly a well accepted part of modern society. A champagne toast at an event, a casual drink with friends, Holy Communion… All common occasions and the list goes on. This acceptance in our culture is certainly reflected in all forms of media advertising such as billboards, TV commercials, radio adverts, and posters. But is the use of media merely reflecting, or multiplying the desire for alcohol?

Alcohol advertising is one of the most controversial forms of marketing worldwide, running alongside tobacco advertisement for the prized place of “Most Highly Regulated”. This strict regulation has arisen from the need to balance the seller’s desire for profitability and market share, and what is good for the consumer. There is no surprise there is controversy, when one considers alcohol has been found to be the most misused drug globally, and its consumption being accountable for the death of 100,000 American citizens every year. As the purpose of advertising a product is to influence buyer behavior, there are many dangers that come with promoting the consumption of alcohol. One of these dangers is underage drinking.

In January 2006, a national study concluded that a greater exposure to alcohol advertising correlates with an increase in the amount of underage drinking. This study showed that in a local market, spending one extra dollar per capita above the national average on alcohol advertising, young people drank 3% more. This shows immediate effects on youth drinking, but knock on effects have also been shown. This has been shown with a study of 2,250 middle-school students in Los Angeles, which found that the more alcohol commercials watched by a seventh grade student, the more likely they are to drink alcohol in the next academic year. Long term effects shows the lasting influence adverts can have on adolescents.The Dangers of Alcohol Advertisement

Another danger is increased or dangerous drinking. If someone has a positive reaction to an alcohol advert, they are more likely to have positive expectancies about alcohol use. We have all seen adverts of people having fantastic and glamorous nights on the town, whilst drinking a certain brand of alcohol. Often it is a case of “I want what they have”, (the lifestyle, the fun, the enjoyment), and thus as the alcohol is the focus of the advert, this desire becomes associated with alcohol. This is supported with many areas of literature, varying from psychology to marketing, which support the concept that because of how the human brain develops, we are attracted to alcohol as it is associated with risky behavior and feel it could provide immediate gratification. This is the idealization of alcohol; the belief it will give you what you want in life, as that is what you have seen in adverts.

Alcohol advertisements not only idealizes alcohol, but normalizes it. Seeing photos, for example, of alcohol on a regular basis could make drinking seem like a common occurrence. If you were to see several pictures of people drinking in a park, it may implant the idea of drinking in a park. By establishing in your mind that you should be drinking regularly, outside of what you would already do, the frequency of when you would drink alcohol could increase. This normalization of alcohol is a danger, as it breaks down normal conventions and increases consumption. This could lead to have health implications.

It could be argued that not everyone is at risk of advertising influence and it is dependent on each individual; however the trends are still undeniable. The impact of advertising on radio and television audiences have even been recognized by the National Association of Broadcasters, who emphasize it cannot be overstated. It has been estimated that a complete ban of alcohol advertising could result in a reduction of 7,609 deaths from harmful drinking, plus a 16.4% drop in alcohol-related life-years lost. This fact alone really and truly highlights the extent of the danger of alcohol advertising, and shows how it could multiply the desire for alcohol rather than cater to it.

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