Norwalk : A study conducted by CAMY, the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth, released earlier this week, found a dramatic reduction in the exposure of youth to alcohol advertising in magazines. From 2001 to 2008, exposure dropped by an impressive 48%, demonstrating that the industry’s practice of self-regulation and commitment to advertising exclusively in publications with an audience that’s at least 70% age 21 or older is working. CAMY’s study also found that there is virtually no alcohol advertising in publications with under-21 readership greater than 30%.
Guy L. Smith, Executive Vice President of Diageo stated: “This study conducted by CAMY – one of the most outspoken opponents of the beverage alcohol industry in this country – confirmed what we already know to be true: self regulation works and fewer people underage are being exposed to alcohol advertising today than ever before.”
CAMY’s study is consistent with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) most recent inquiry into alcohol advertising. The FTC found “high levels of compliance” with the alcohol industry’s voluntary placement standard that advertising materials should be placed only where 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older. In that report, the FTC said it was not recommending a change in the 70% 21+ demographic standard. Further, the FTC found that the “current 70 percent baseline standard has helped to ensure that alcohol advertising is not disproportionately directed to those below the legal drinking age, as recommended by the Surgeon General’s Call to Action [to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking].” (FTC Report, p. 27, http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/06/alcoholrpt.shtm)
There has been considerable study of the impact of alcohol advertising but no study has been able to demonstrate that alcohol advertising causes underage drinking. More than a decade ago, Diageo proactively moved to restrict its advertising to publications in which 70% of the audience is age 21 and older. In 2003, the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. also adopted the 70% standard.
Smith continued, “Underage drinking is a complex problem, and one that cannot be cured – or caused – by advertising. At Diageo, we have zero tolerance for underage drinking, and that’s why we abide by one of the most stringent marketing codes in the industry. If we have any chance of ending underage drinking – and I believe we do – we all need to work collaboratively toward a solution-oriented approach. Research has conclusively proven that the most effective deterrent to underage drinking is parents talking with their children about alcohol.”
CAMY, formerly affiliated with Georgetown University and now with Johns Hopkins University, has published numerous reports critical of industry self-regulation. However, some of CAMY’s over-reaching methodology has itself been criticized by authoritative organizations, including the Federal Trade Commission.