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Growing pressure for total ban on alcohol ads

Reporter: Karina Huber 丨 CCTV.com

05-04-2016 15:04 BJT

The World Health Organization says alcohol-related illnesses account for over three million deaths annually, and that alcohol abuse is increasingly affecting younger people in developing countries.

WHO emphasizes the need to implement a strategy to disseminate information on the health effects and social consequences of alcohol use and dependence. CCTV correspondent reports on growing pressure for a total ban on alcohol ads in the US media.

An old tobacco ad showing children smoking cigarettes. It seems unthinkable today, but it was once perfectly legal in the United States. That changed in 1971 after the US Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning tobacco ads from radio and television.

The World Health Organization says countries introduce bans on tobacco advertising could see a seven percent reduction in smoking. Now health advocates want to see a similar ban on advertising alcohol products. They say they're being marketed more than ever.

"We like to compare it to what we saw in the 60s and 70s with the tobacco industry and how they marketed. It's extremely prevalent and in our study, what we saw on average there were 2.2 alcohol brand placements per episode across the ten television shows that we coded," said Joy Gabrielli, child psychologist of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Gabrielli co-authored a study that is about to be released. It surveyed two-thousand kids between the ages of 15 and 20 over a two-year period to assess the effects of alcohol brand placement in television on youth behavior.

"We saw an increased risk for the initiation of drinking following the exposure to these TV shows and then we also showed an increase in their likelihood for hazardous drinking behavior," said Joy Gabrielli.

Other studies have concluded alcohol ads have little impact on overall consumption, but this study looks specifically at the effects on young people who Gabrielli says are more vulnerable to advertising than adults.

"We feel that the youth ages 13 to upwards of 24 are highly impacted by advertisement mainly because we know that it is a critical time of identity formation and youth are highly influenced by their peers and the influences that they receive through the media," said Joy Gabrielli

Gabrielli would like to see a ban, but other academics believe the problem of youth drinking is better solved at home.

"The research quite clearly demonstrates that the biggest impact on the alcohol use and abuse of young people comes from the parents. We can make it clear by our words and our deeds that we don't think that intoxication is humorous, that it's funny. When we see that sort of thing portrayed on television we should point out the dangers of the abuse of alcohol," said David Hanson, Professor Emeritus of State Univ. of New York at Potsdam.

But from a public policy perspective it's impossible to regulate how parents interact with their kids, which is why many are focusing on an ad ban. Russia forbids alcohol advertising in all media. Turkey also has a blanket media ban, as does Indonesia. A total ban could prove a tough sell here-with revenues from U.S. alcohol sales at more than $211 billion per year.

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