Ads add massively to teen boozing scourge, study finds
Stalled alcohol bill must be passed as soon as possible to save our youth, campaigners insist
Alcohol ads have a significant effect on how much adolescents drink, a new study has found.
The research team says its findings should kickstart stalled legislation aimed at choking the R1.7bn-a-year alcohol marketing industry.
“In 2013, the SA government approved the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill, but ... it still has to be voted on,” Neo Morejele and colleagues said in the September edition of the SA Medical Journal.
Morojele’s team was involved in the SA leg of the International Alcohol Control study, and quizzed 16- and 17-year-olds in Tshwane about their drinking habits and alcohol advertising.
More than 80% of the 869 teenagers reported “substantial exposure” to booze ads on television, at the movies, on signs, posters and billboards, in print and on clothing.
“This is concerning given that the alcohol industry’s code of conduct prohibits the targeting of young people,” said Morojele, who works at the SA Medical Research Council.
“In addition, just under half of the adolescents reported exposure via social media, and a quarter via websites.”The multitude of ways teenagers experienced alcohol marketing was significant. “A participant who was exposed to advertisements via seven different channels was 2.08 times more likely to have used alcohol in the past six months than a participant with exposure via a significant channel.”
Previous research among high school pupils between grades 8 and 11 found that half of them had drunk alcohol and a quarter had engaged in binge drinking.
Only 10.6% of the teenagers in the new study reported drinking in the past six months, but Morojele said that was probably misleading.
“It is likely that the low proportion ... emanates from some parents’ refusal to permit their adolescent children to take part in the study and/or adolescents’ reluctance to admit to drinking alcohol,” she said.The prevalence of drinking was “significantly higher” among teens who reported exposure to sponsorship on TV programmes or movies, famous people promoting alcohol brands, free offers when they bought booze and e-mails containing promotional offers.
The stalled legislation would stop all these activities, only allowing point-of-sale notices at licensed and registered outlets.
Morojele said: “The study’s findings can provide a basis on which to advocate for the resuscitation of the stalled legislation ... in order to substantially reduce adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure.”
In turn, this would reduce their drinking “and the myriad social and health harms” it caused.
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