News Release

Girls more likely than boys to be overexposed to alcohol ads in magazines

Peer-Reviewed Publication

JAMA Network

CHICAGO – In 2002, underage youth saw more alcohol advertising than adults in magazines, and girls were even more exposed to this advertising than boys, according to a study in the July issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Background information in the article states: "Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States, associated with lower educational attainment, greater likelihood of attempting suicide or of engaging in risky sexual behavior, and increased risk of drinking-driving mortality compared with the population 21 years and older." In 2002, alcohol companies in the U.S. spent $1.9 billion on magazines, newspaper, television, radio, and outdoor advertisements, 21.1 percent of which was used in magazines advertising.

David H. Jernigan, Ph.D., of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and colleagues investigated adolescent girls' and boys' (ages 12 to 20 years) exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines compared to alcohol ad exposure for men and women (ages 21 to 34, and 21 years and older). The researchers examined readership data from 2001 and 2002 for 103 national magazines in which a total of 6,239 alcohol advertisements appeared. The advertisements were divided according to alcohol type: beer and ales, distilled spirits, low-alcohol refreshers (LARs, i.e. sweet-flavored alcoholic beverages, alcopops, alcoholic lemonades), and wine.

The researchers found that in 2002 underage youth (12 to 20 years of age) in the U.S. saw 45 percent more beer and ale advertising; 12 percent more distilled spirits advertising; 65 percent more LAR advertising; and 69 percent less advertising for wine than men and women of legal drinking age. From 2001 to 2002, both girls' and boys' exposure to alcohol advertisements decreased in every alcohol category except LAR advertisements, which increased by 216 percent and 46 percent respectively. For underage boys, 13 brands (11 distilled spirits and two beers) accounted for half of their alcohol advertising exposure, while 16 brands of alcohol (14 distilled spirits, one beer, and one LAR) accounted for half of the advertising exposure to underage girls.

The authors write: "In the context of youth generally being more likely per capita than the legal-age audience to see magazine advertising for beer and ale, distilled spirits, and LARs, perhaps the most striking finding of our analysis is the level or overexposure experienced by girls." They state in conclusion: "Exposure of underage girls to alcohol advertising is substantial and increasing, pointing to the failure of industry self-regulation and the need for further action." (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004; 158: 629-634. Available post-embargo at


Editor's note: This research was supported by grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, Pa., and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ.


In an accompanying editorial, Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., from the Boston University School of Public Health, stresses the dangers of underage drinking.

"The declining age of first alcohol consumption and the percentage of high school students engaging in frequent heavy drinking of 5 alcoholic beverages or more per occasion should be of considerable concern," Hingson writes. "…relative to nondrinkers, those frequent heavy drinkers are much more likely to engage in a variety of behaviors that endanger their health. Forty-one percent of high school frequent heavy drinkers report driving after drinking…Annually, 7,000 persons younger than 21 years die from alcohol-related injury. Moreover, many of the people harmed by underage drinking are not the drinkers themselves." He continues: "…alcohol is a if not the leading contributor to the leading causes of death among young people in the United States and is a factor in more than 50,000 alcohol-related injury deaths annually"

Hingson concludes: "Are these advertising and promotional practices contributing to the declining age of alcohol use initiation, which in turn increases the risk of alcohol dependence and other alcohol problems affecting drinkers and people with whom they come in contact both during adolescence and adulthood? The effect of all of this advertising and promotion on attitudes and expectancies toward alcohol use among both youth and adults merits additional research, as does the possibility of a link to increased consumption or a lack of decline in consumption, despite the loss of thousands of lives annually among adolescents and adults to alcohol-related injuries." (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004; 158: 702-704)

For More Information: Contact the JAMA/Archives Media Relations Department at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or email:

To contact David H. Jernigan, Ph.D., call Nicole King at 202-687-0884.
To contact editorialist Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., call Jodi Petrie at 617-638-5432.

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