Sarah Longwell’s claim that the scientific evidence doesn’t support a relationship between alcohol advertising exposure and drinking behavior is outdated and incorrect (“Keep Alcohol Ads Flowing During Super Bowl,” Jan. 22). Her argument is based on studies published over a decade ago, and ignores more recent research published in leading peer-reviewed journals.

Longwell, managing director at the American Beverage Institute, makes her claim just days following publication of a new study in JAMA Pediatrics, which found that exposure to and ability to recall alcohol advertising among young people was associated with a greater likelihood of starting to drink and moving on to binge and hazardous drinking.

In 2009, a review of more than a dozen long-term studies concluded that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, or, if they are already drinking, to drink more. Since then, several additional long-term studies published in some of the nation’s top medical and public health journals have reached similar conclusions.

Researchers, including myself, are now exploring associations between the brands youth are exposed to via marketing and advertising, and what they choose to drink; findings indicate that a relationship exists between youth exposure to brand-specific advertising and brand-specific consumption. This relationship holds true regardless of what parents are drinking, whether the youth chose the brand themselves, the brand’s average price, and the popularity of the brand among adults.

Unlike tobacco, alcohol advertising in the U.S. is primarily regulated by the industry itself through a voluntary code. Recent studies suggest that the industry’s guidelines, which serve as the main vehicle for reducing youth exposure to and appeal of alcohol advertising, fail to effectively limit exposure to television alcohol advertising.

Based on this evidence, a number of groups and officials, including the National Research Council, the Institute of Medicine and 24 state and territorial attorneys general, have called upon the alcohol industry to strengthen its standards to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing.

Alcohol is the number one drug among youth and responsible for the deaths of 4,300 underage youth each year. Reducing exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing would be a “win” for young people.

David Jernigan, Ph.D., director, Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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