Advertising leads to greater alcohol use by young people, study finds

Young people, particularly those experimenting with alcohol during adolescence, are also those most influenced by alcohol advertising, reports a group of Michigan State University researchers who have completed a major study of advertising and alcohol.

Endorsements by celebrities and athletes also influenced young people the most, say the researchers. In a survey of 1,227 young people, two-fifths of the respondents said that during the period when they initially experimented with alcohol they used ads to find out which brands famous people drank.

The study concluded that advertising has a moderate influence on drinking behavior during the adolescent years.

In 1977, $411 million was spent on national advertising of alcohol, with network television carrying 5,000 beer and 600 wine advertisements. Newsweek, People, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy carried the most alcohol advertising.

''Surveys show that individuals notice large numbers of these ads and pay close attention to between one-fourth and three-fifths of them,'' says the report. ''Ads on television attract greater attention than magazine ads.''

The researchers found that:

* Advertising seems to serve as a significant informal source of socialization about alcohol, although most advertisements focused more on brand awareness than general information about alcohol.

* Advertisements appear to convey to the audience certain favorable impressions about the characteristics of drinkers, but the impact is not strong.

* Those heavily exposed to alcohol advertising estimate the typical person consumes about two more drinks per week than those who are lightly exposed to alcohol advertising.

* Advertising may contribute to the feeling that alcohol provides escape.

The researchers conclude that more public service advertising showing the consequences of drinking and driving and some restrictions on the use of famous endorsers may serve to reduce the effects of advertising on adolescents.

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