Effects of Alcohol Advertising

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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The effects of alcohol advertising can be evaluated as either ethical or unethical in the eyes of consumers. After extensive research, it has become apparent that the advertising of alcoholic products has no direct causation to the consumptions of alcohol. Although advertising does have a minimal effect on consumers, the act of drinking alcohol cannot be directly related back to advertising, nor can it be banned from society or removed from the context of reality. Alcohol advertising does not directly promote alcoholism or underage drinking, therefore advertising alcohol is not unethical and can not be held responsible for the actions of those who misuse it.

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 Regulation and Link Between Advertising and Consumption.

There is no doubt that there is an alcohol misuse problem in the United States, but according to research from The University of Texas at Austin, there is little to no evidence supporting that advertising contributes to this epidemic or even to overall alcohol consumption. Research derived by Professor Gary Wilcox found that in forty years of alcohol sales, per capita consumption did not change despite alcohol advertising increasing by more than 400 percent in the United States (Richards, 2015). Continuing to expand on this, the study also cites strong evidence that the effects of alcohol advertising are limited primarily to brand selection in adults.

Essentially noting that the goals of alcoholic advertisements are no different than the goals of any other product: to increase brand awareness. Meaning, the intention behind the bud light commercials we see every super bowl isn’t shown to encourage every viewer to get blackout drunk or in hopes of audiences developing a dependence, but is broadcasted merely to display their brand as a good selection amongst competing beer companies. The drink industry is committed to playing its part in responding to this epidemic and “The Federal Alcohol Administration Act” ensures that as it functions to monitor alcohol advertising in the United States by placing regulations that protect consumers from any form of deceptive advertising. Alcohol brands and outlets have already fully accepted the understanding that their marketing must be undertaken in a measured, responsible manner and is targeted at appropriate audiences.

Thus, continuing to run advertisements is actually a measure that should be taken when considering the public’s best interest as, given these standards, they help lead to an increase in awareness. For example, if there was no advertising about alcohol, there would be nothing publicly reminding people to drink responsibly. The platforms of alcohol brands play a crucial role in spreading awareness to respect and value moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. You won’t find individuals advocating this along Sixth Street or in pubs; to achieve this the voice of responsible alcohol advertisements are critical. So despite the widespread support for advertising reform, it is evident that a ban will not suffice.

Validating this is the results from “a comprehensive study in 17 countries for the years 1977-1995 [which] [determined] that advertising bans did not decrease alcohol consumption or abuse.” (Richards, 2015). Bans are crude instruments which can often glamorize the very things that are being prohibited. Thus, it is evident that regulating a ban on advertising is not going to achieve the holy grail of fostering a culture of moderate alcohol consumers. So what is? Well, rather than enforcing advertising, marketing or sponsorship restrictions, Professor Gary Wilcox placed strong emphasis on measures to ensure the highest standards of commercial communications such as by communicating as much information as possible to the public about the subject so “our society [can] make an autonomous, rational choice regarding alcohol consumption” (Richards, 2015).

After the case of General Hudson Gas versus the Public Commission Service in New York City, a list of steps was put in place to evaluate the regulation of commercial speech (Hudson). If the advertisement is lawful and not misleading, there should be no regulation measures taken in pursuit of commercial speech. Additionally, if alcohol advertising is deemed unethical, then other media outlets like television and movies should also be restricted from exposing audiences to alcohol. It often goes unnoticed that movies and television show especially reality tv have a strong tendency to promote alcohol. There are more unethical things being advertised then alcohol in the United States that need to be regulated and that have more harmful effects.

After the establishment of the General Hudson test, advertisers were required to be more transparent when selling products. This transparency helps to protect the viewers of these advertisements. As stated by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth report in 2012, the federal statute regarding alcoholic beverages says “[t]he advertisement of [any alcoholic beverage] shall not contain: … Any statement that is false or untrue in any material particular, or that, irrespective of falsity, directly, or by ambiguity, omission, or inference, or by the addition of irrelevant, scientific or technical matter tends to create a misleading impression” (CAMY 2012). These statues are set in place to help the companies selling and marketing alcoholic beverages do so in an ethical way.

Furthermore, the law is a subset of ethics making the first amendment subset of ethics. In 1990 the commission testified to Congress making it clear that evidence between advertising and alcohol consumption is gray and failed to show a relationship (Starek 2013). It seems that no matter what studies are done to try and prove that alcohol advertising increases consumption professionals are incapable of accurately measuring any relationship that might exist. Without significant scientific evidence that restrictions on alcohol advertising would substantially decrease consumption among youth, alcohol advertising should be protected under the first amendment.

The companies that use alcohol advertising to sell their products have pledged to comply with one of three voluntary self-regulatory codes designed to limit targeting of teens (Federal Trade Commission 2018). This clearly highlights that companies using alcohol advertising have the best interest at hand and want to do what’s ethical (Federal Trade Commission 2018). Peer pressure Of all college students in the US, 40% are binge drinking meaning students are consuming four or more drinks at a time. Research shows that this discrepancy between college students is largely due to the college environment. In other words, peer pressure to drink because it is the social norm among college students (Palmeri 2009). When college students make their way out to the nightlife scene it is their friends that are convincing them that they need to blackout. It is the sense of belonging that strives young teens and college students to engage in this risky behavior. The American Addiction Center highlights that “Peer pressure is a massive factor in whether or not a person will engage in risky behaviors, which includes underage drinking” (American Addiction Centers 2018).

Overconsumption of alcohol also includes risky behaviors such as rape, alcohol poisoning, and getting caught up with the law. The Social Norms Marketing Advertising (SNMA) is a prevention program where college students were informed about the statistics of drinking norms through media advertisements. Turner found in 2008 that their freshmen class benefited from the SNMA and reported a “22 percent reduction in alcohol consumption over a 6 year period, as well as were associated with fewer negative consequences” (Palmeri 2009). The SNMA further demonstrates that it is not alcohol advertising that is leading to abuse among youth but rather it is the social proof of desiring acceptance and belonging. Instead of putting alcohol advertising on trial when there is no direct correlation to overconsumption of alcohol among youth, it is in the public’s best interest to find ways to inform adolescents about drinking norms which have actually proven to be effective. From the day a child is born, parents have an exponential impact on every detail of their child’s future and success. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that “Parents and teachers can play a big role in shaping young people’s attitudes toward drinking” (NIH 2017).

Therefore, it is evident that parents need to be involved in discussions with their children about alcohol. A parent’s attitude affects a kid’s attitude, and subsequently drinking in general, and the way a child is conditioned is going to be the leading factor in their decision to engage with alcohol or not. An adolescent who is born to a parent that is involved and who raises them with a firm foundation of life principals and knowledge will stand unshakable in the face of peer pressure because they will be confident in their identity and understanding of the alcohol.

However, parents who are lazy in teaching and guiding their children through lessons such as alcohol and its serious repercussions will likely wind up raising a more troubled adolescent who is confused, uninformed and vulnerable to the option of experimenting with alcohol. Supporting research was recently published by University at Buffalo psychologist, Craig Colder who claims: “[though] you can’t control all of your kids’ decisions, you can help them to make good choices in situations where alcohol is available. You want kids to think about and reflect upon the pros and cons of drinking based on your example and previous discussions” (Taite, 2015). The average 21st-century mothers and fathers have become oblivious to just how crucial their role is in enabling underage drinking if they aren’t responsible with equipping their children with the proper information and morals necessary to make good life choices.

Thus, the focus and responsibility needs to transition more into the hands of unqualified parents and off of the media. It’s topics like drugs and alcohol that ultimately are up to the parents to address with their kids in order to protect their youth and guard their safety. Alcohol advertisements are merely doing their job, so parents should do theirs. Conclusion Correlation does not equal causation. The alcohol consumption rates in America cannot be directly tied to the amount of money used to advertise alcoholic brands. As stated in the research, there are other factors that affect the amount people drink, the rate at which they drink, and the age they begin to drink. Creating a ban on advertising for alcohol would not necessarily cause alcohol consumption rates to drop. The regulations in place that advertisers must follow in order to showcase alcoholic brands create a safeguard for the young viewers and reminds audiences to drink responsibly. Protecting these companies’ freedom to advertise their brand does not mean promoting alcoholism in America, it means upholding the first amendment.

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Effects of Alcohol Advertising. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/effects-of-alcohol-advertising/