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Research Review

Restrictions on TV Ads Ineffective in Reducing Youths Exposure to Alcohol Ads

Efforts to reduce underage exposure to alcohol advertising by implementing time restrictions have not worked, according to new research from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy. The report, published in the Journal of Public Affairs, confirms what Dutch researchers had already learned in that country: time restrictions on alcohol advertising actually increase teen exposure, because companies move the advertising to late night.

In 2009, Dutch regulators sought to reduce youths exposure to alcohol advertising by restricting times during which alcohol ads may be aired on television or radio. Under this restriction, alcohol advertising was prohibited between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm. In 2010, compliance with the time restriction on television was close to 100%.

CAMY researchers used simulation analysis to model what would happen if a similar policy were applied to US television advertising for alcohol, taking into account the program type and audience demographics. They found that time restrictions do protect viewers under the age of 12, but they actually increase the exposure of the young people most likely to start drinking, that is, teens aged 12 to 20. This happens because teens increase as a percentage of the nighttime television audience after 9 pm.

“In light of the policy in the Netherlands and the recommendations for similar policies in other countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, determining the impact of time restrictions on youth exposure is a public health priority,” says lead author and CAMY researcher Craig Ross, MBA. “In the wake of time restrictions, alcohol companies push their ads onto late night programming, when the adolescent/teenage audience is more highly concentrated, thus increasing advertising exposure for this high-risk group.”

— Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health