Underage drinking is a serious and complex issue. The range of legislated drinking age limits around the world reflects various local societies and their collective values as well as culturally-influenced drinking patterns. In addition, distinctions are made between on-premise consumption and off-premise purchase, and certain exceptions are legislated in terms of alcohol content, as well as allowances for alcohol consumed by minors with a parent present and/or inside the family home.
The difficult realities of this issueâ€”among them, that many underage youth report drinking even though it is illegal for them to do soâ€”warrant careful policy consideration.
We would also like to note that Brown-Formanâ€™s heritage as a family-owned company with strong community ties is at the core of how we operate as a business. We simply do not want the business of underage youth in the markets we serve.
BASED ON THE FINDINGS AND OBSERVATIONS DISCUSSED IN THIS REPORT, BROWN-FORMAN SUPPORTS AND ENCOURAGES:1
It is important to emphasize and embrace the great value of family, school, and community involvement in all education, prevention, and intervention initiatives.
All such efforts stand a better chance of success with a sense of commitment shared amongst families, educators, the beverage alcohol industry, the hospitality industry, law enforcement, community groups, and young people under the drinking age themselves.
Education and prevention programs, continually updated and supported by the private sector, public agencies, and private-public partnerships
We commit to work with interested stakeholders, including those above as well as NGOs and IGOs, to develop, promote and disseminate educational materials and programs designed to prevent and reduce underage purchase and consumption. These initiatives should include consulting experts on the development of best practice educational materials for use by parents, schools, and community groups and in social media.
Such initiatives should foster awareness of legal drinking and purchase age requirements.
These initiatives should also promote accurate information about the risks associated with underage drinking and the penalties for breaking legal drinking age laws (both for underage drinkers as well as retailers, servers, and drinking establishments).
These initiatives should recognize and embrace the fact that parents and peers have significant influence on young peopleâ€™s attitudes and decisions regarding beverage alcohol.
Targeted prevention efforts which emphasize the key role of parents when it comes to discussing topics such as underage drinkingâ€”which may be a subject difficult to address, but is nonetheless a critical matter for parents to address with the children
In the U.S., through the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org), we support programs such as Ask. Listen. Learn. and Girl Talk (see www.responsibility.org/underage-drinking/initiatives).Â We also support and encourage similar efforts elsewhere in the worldâ€”for example, the Think-Donâ€™t Drink public awareness campaign targeting youth in the U.K.
Strong, clearly communicated, and consistently enforced social hosting policies (for adults who serve underage youthâ€”who are not their childrenâ€”in their homes)
Research consistently shows that underage youth often obtain alcohol from parents and other family members.
We encourage and support initiatives which (1) help make adults (parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) aware of the criminal and civil risks they may face if they host an underage drinking party and (2) help to educate young people about the laws and risks associated with underage drinking.
The establishmentâ€”and consistent enforcementâ€”of laws which make it a crime for adults to purchase or provide alcohol for underage youth
In addition to supporting legal enforcement, we encourage the adoption of best practices in responsible retailing to curtail sales and service to those underage.
The adoption of a legal drinking age of at least 18-years old globally
We see drinking as something which requires a certain level of maturity in order to do so responsibly.
Even in markets where the legal drinking age is lower than 18-years oldâ€”or has not been establishedâ€”directing beverage alcohol marketing only to people who are at least 18-years old
- 1. These positions do not pertain to religious occasions and ceremonies which may traditionally involve beverage alcohol, as well as parental serving of alcohol to their children in the home.
Drinking by youth under the legal drinking age is a matter of public health concern internationally. Every year in the United States alone, about 5,000 youth under age 21 die from motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, and homicides and suicides that involve underage drinking.1Â Heavy episodic (or â€œbingeâ€) drinking patterns of certain underage youth are of particular concern and have been the focus of greater attention in recent years. (For more on related topics, see The Issues Forum entries addressing Drunk DrivingÂ and Binge Drinking.)
In addition, it is generally accepted that underage youth are at increased risk for certain harmful drinking behaviors and negative consequences. As summarized by the executive committee issuing a National Academy of Sciences report on underage drinking:
Alcohol use by young people is dangerous, not only because of the risks associated with acute impairment, but also because of the threat to their long-term development and well being. Traffic crashes are perhaps the most visible of these dangers, with alcohol being implicated in nearly one-third of youth traffic fatalities. Underage alcohol use is also associated with violence, suicide, educational failure, and other problem behaviors.2
Emerging research on the potential negative effects of alcohol on the growth and development of adolescent brains is also cause for concern. There is also research which illuminates the key role of genetics in how alcohol affects brain function, and why the effects may be more severe in some individuals than others.3Â In addition, research shows that children who begin to consume alcohol before age 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems than those who started drinking after age 21.4Footnotes Less
- 1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Underage Drinking Research Initiative. See: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking.
- 2. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2003). Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Committee on Developing a Strategy to reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking, Richard J. Bonnie and Mary Ellen Oâ€™Connell, editors. Executive Summary, p.1.
- 3. See: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa68/aa68.htm.
- 4. See: http://www.apha.org/NR/rdonlyres/FCFEC446-838F-461F-A111-5A284E7566AC/0/A12004.pdf. See also: Alcohol risks greater in teen-onset drinkers, Pediatrics (June 5 2009) at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/search?fulltext=hingson&volume=123&issue=6.
Underage drinking is most commonly understood to be illegal drinking by youth who are below the minimum legal age at which a person may purchase beverage alcohol in any given jurisdiction. For example, in many countries around the world, the legal drinking age is 18-years old (including Australia, China, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa). In Japan, the legal drinking age is 20-years old, and in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. (For more information on legislated drinking age limits, see Appendix I.)
Also, for the purposes of this discussion, the concept of underage drinking is understood to preclude religious occasions and ceremonies which may traditionally involve beverage alcohol, as well as parental serving of alcohol to their children in the home. (For similar and additional related content, see The Issues Forum entry on Legal Drinking Age.)
FINDINGS ON UNDERAGE DRINKING
Drinking by underage youth is generally considered illegal in most countries and societies. That said, it is also true that at least limited experiences with alcohol are reported by young people and their families around the world. In some societies, young people may be introduced to alcohol at younger ages than in othersâ€”typically in the context of family meals or celebrations.1
Research shows that underage males are more likely to drink than underage females, and also more likely to do so in higher quantities (although some recent studies also show a narrowing of this gender differential).2Â In addition, a societyâ€™s overall drinking culture has been shown to be a consistently influential factor in determining whether or how young people drink. For instance, in countries such as Greece and Italy with the so-called â€œMediterraneanâ€ approach to drinking, young people have been found to be more likely to drink, and to drink more often, than their counterparts in other regions, yet also less likely to drink to the point of drunkenness or to display other problematic behaviors associated with excessive drinking. Young people in Scandinavia, on the other hand, have been found to be more likely to drink in a problematic and risky manner.3, 4, 5
In the United States, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, by age 15, approximately 50 percent of boys and girls have had a whole drink of alcohol; by age 21, approximately 90 percent have done so.6
Also in the U.S., the annual Monitoring the Future survey results issued by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reflect that in 2011, the percentage of underage youth who admitted drinking an alcohol beverage in the prior 30-day period were represented as follows7:
In addition, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the U.S. reports that more than one quarter (25.1 percent) of people aged 12 to 20 consumed alcohol in the past monthâ€”including8:
There is also research which shows that although adolescents drink less frequently than adults, when they do drink, they drink more heavily than adults.9Â In addition, some studies have shown that early initiation of alcohol consumption is associated with higher likelihood of involvement in risky behaviors including driving after drinking, riding with a driver who has been drinking, sexual activity and pregnancy, and interpersonal violence.10
HOW UNDERAGE YOUTH MAKE THEIR DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT TO DRINK
Although there are legal drinking age laws around the world, most young people have some experience with beverage alcohol before they reach the legal drinking age. In addition to culture, other factors have been found to be key influences in shaping young peopleâ€™s attitudes and approaches toward consuming alcohol. Research also consistently confirms the central role played by parents in influencing their childrenâ€™s attitudes and behaviors with regard to drinking. According to the 2012 Roper Youth Report, of the individuals between the ages ofÂ 13 and 17 surveyed in the U.S., 73 percent identified their parents as the leading influence that might affect their decisions about drinking.11
In addition, research surveys reflect that friends and peers play a role in whether young people decide to drinkâ€”and if they do decide to drink, their drinking behaviors.12, 13Â In addition, certain studies have found that young people involved in organized extracurricular activities are less likely to drink in ways that result in negative consequences.14Â However, there are studies which also indicate that young people involved in athletic activities are sometimes more likely to engage in dangerous drinking behaviors.15
TABLE 1 YOUTH SURVEY
Drinking decisions: what youth say…
Among six things that might affect their decisions about drinking, 73% of American youth (age 13-17) identified their parents as the leading influence.
Source: GfK Roper Youth Report and The Century Council.Â Media includes TV, radio, magazines, and internet.Â In 2012, the respondents could only choose one answer option for this question.
YOUNG PEOPLESâ€™ DRINKING BEHAVIORS AND PATTERNS
Parental influence and drinking habits have been found to play a very significant role in shaping the drinking behaviors of adolescents and young adultsâ€”both positively and negatively.16, 17Â For instance, one recent study found that even many young children are introduced to alcohol by tasting and sipping in the homeâ€”as opposed to having a full drinkâ€”most often in a family or religious context, and almost never with friends or when alone. The study reported that in the scientific sample of 452 children aged 8 to 10 interviewed (along with their parents), nearly 40 percent had sipped or tasted alcohol, whereas only six percent had ever had an actual drink.18Â The significant role of parentsâ€”and parentsâ€™ drinking habitsâ€”in influencing how their children drink is emphasized in initiatives such as those developed by DrinkWise and its â€œKids Absorb Your Drinkingâ€ campaign (see www.drinkwise.com.au), as well as Irelandâ€™s â€œIs your drinking affecting your thinkingâ€ initiative (www.meas.ie).
Family structure can also factor into the development of drinking patterns. For instance, adolescents who have a close relationship with their parents and enjoy a strong sense of family support are reported to be less likely to experience problems associated with drinking than those who lack close family ties and/or adult guidance and supervision.19
HOW UNDERAGE YOUTH OBTAIN ALCOHOL
In a June 2011 SAMHSA study, survey results showed that 38 percent of underage drinkers in the U.S. were given alcohol for free by an adult age 21 or older. More than half said that they were at someone elseâ€™s home when they had their last drink, and 28 percent were in their own home.20Â In addition,Â 19.1 percent reported getting alcohol for free from an underage peer. Parents and other relatives also play a role in giving alcohol to underage youth, withÂ 21.4Â percent reporting that they received alcohol from a relative of legal drinking age, a parent, or guardian.21
A 2003 survey commissioned by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) asked teens, ‘Where do you get the alcohol that you drink?’Â Sixty-five percent of the underage youth surveyed said that they got the alcohol they drink from family and friends, meaning they got it from their parents, their friends’ parents, older siblings or family members or older friends, with or without permission.Â Responsible retail practices have helped reduce youth access, though 7 percent of youth state they get their alcohol from bars or stores that do not check I.D.
The relationship between marketing, advertising, and alcohol consumption has been studied using a variety of methodologies. The balance of the evidence does not show a causal relationship between overall alcohol marketing and drinking levels or harmful drinking patterns.22Â According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), â€œWhen all of the studies are considered, the results of research on the effects of alcohol advertising are mixed and not conclusive.â€23
On the one hand, there is research which shows that parents, and to some extent peersâ€”not advertisementsâ€”are the most powerful factor in young peoplesâ€™ decisions to drink (and if they do drink, how and to what extent). Moreover, the research tends to show that advertising by alcohol producers largely affects market share for particular brands and substitution between brands. In other words, advertising has not been shown to increase consumption levels, either amongst adults or youthâ€”but rather, has a documented impact on the extent to which certain products and brands are preferred and consumed, versus other products and brands.24
On the other hand, there are recent longitudinal studies which show a modest correlation between advertising and alcohol consumption by underage youth and young adults who are of college age.25Â For example, one study found that 12-year olds who are highly exposed to alcohol advertisements are 50 percent more likely to start drinking in a yearâ€™s time, compared to youth of the same age who have light exposure to alcohol advertisements.26Â The methodologies of these studies have been criticized, and the authors of one study have acknowledged limitations in inferences which can be drawn because â€œunmeasured confounders cannot be adjusted for and can result in biased findings.â€27
In addition, the research consistently identifies the strong influence of parents and family environment with regard to young peoplesâ€™ drinking, as well as peer influence.28
DISTINCTIONS: UNDERAGE POSSESSION VS. CONSUMPTION; ON- VS. OFF-PREMISE; ABV LEVELS
Although possession and consumption are closely linked (as consumption requires possession), some jurisdictions distinguish between the two with regard to legal drinking age laws. In addition, some jurisdictions distinguish between possession and consumption in terms of exceptions made to legal drinking age laws.
In the United Kingdom, where the minimum legal age for purchasing alcohol is 18, minors are allowed to consume alcohol in the home from the age of five. In Australia, where the legal age for purchase and possession of beverage alcohol is also 18, children may consume alcohol in the home or under adult supervision at any age. In the U.S., approximatelyÂ 45 states have legislated provisions which specifically allow for consumption under the legal drinking age of 21 under certain circumstancesâ€”e.g., for religious reasons and/ or with parental approval. 29
In addition, certain jurisdictions make distinctions between the legal age limit for on-premise (e.g., pubs, bars, restaurants) versus off-premise (shops, stores, etc.) purchase of alcohol. As a result of such legal distinctions, as well as additional provisions about alcohol content, what is considered to be underage drinking can be a complex matter in some jurisdictions.
For example, in Austria, for distilled spirits, the minimum age for purchase and consumption is 16-years old in three of nine Federal States, and 18-years old in the six other Federal States (with some Federal States differentiating by alcohol content, legislating higher minimum ages for purchase or consumption of drinks with alcohol content of 12 percent Alcohol By Volume (ABV) or more). In Canada, the legal age for consumption or purchase is 18-years old in three provinces, but 19-years old in the remaining provinces. In India, on- and off-premise legal age limits range from 18 to 25, depending on the state. In Belgium, there is no minimum off-premise purchase age for wine and beer; in Brazil, there is no minimum off-premise purchase age for any kind of beverage alcohol.30Â For more information on such distinctions, see Appendix I and/or the related Issues Forum entry on Legal Drinking Age.Footnotes Less
- 1. International Center for Alcohol Policies, Blue Book, Module 11. See: http://www.icap.org/PolicyTools/ICAPBlueBook/BlueBookModules/11YoungPeopleandAlcohol/tabid/172/Default.aspx
- 2. International Center for Alcohol Policies, Blue Book, Module 11. See: http://www.icap.org/PolicyTools/ICAPBlueBook/BlueBookModules/11YoungPeopleandAlcohol/tabid/172/Default.aspx
- 3. Araoz, G. (2004). Cultural Considerations. In What drives underage drinking? An international analysis. Washington, D.C: International Center for Alcohol Policies.
- 4. Currie, C., Roberts, C., Morgan, A., Smith, R., Settertobutle, W., Samdal, O., et al. (Eds.). (2004). Young peopleâ€™s health in context. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: International report from the 2001/2002 survey. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
- 5. Popova, S., Rehm, J., Patra, J., Zatonski, W. (2006). Comparing alcohol consumption in Central and Eastern Europe to other European countries, Alcohol & Alcoholism, p.1. See: http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/agl124v2.
- 6. The Surgeon Generalâ€™s call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. See: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/.
- 7. Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 14, 2011). "Marijuana use continues to rise among U.S. teens, while alcohol use hits historic lows." University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI. See: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pressreleases/11drugpr.pdf.
- 8. Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Updated September 2012. See: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k11Results/NSDUHresults2011.pdf.
- 9. The Surgeon Generalâ€™s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. See: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/.
- 10. J.W. Miller et al, Binge Drinking and Associated Health Risk Behaviors Among High School Students, 119 Pediatrics 76-85 (2007). See: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/fall/119/1/76.
- 11. Gfk Roper Youth Report 2012, See: http://www.centurycouncil.org/underage-drinking/what-youth-say-about-alcohol.
- 12. Arata, C. M., Stafford, J., & Tims, M. S. (2003). High school drinking and its consequences. Adolescence, 38, 567â€“579.
- 13. Geckova, A., & van Dijk, J. P. (2001). Peer impact on smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use and sports activities in adolescents. Studia Psychologica, 43, 113â€“123.
- 14. Eccles, J. S., & Barber, B. L. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 6, 281â€“294.
- 15. Leichliter, J. S., Meilman, P. W., Presley, C. A., & Cashin, J. R. (1998). Alcohol use and related consequences among students with varying levels of involvement in college athletics Journal of American College Health, 46, 257â€“262.
- 16. Donovan, J. E., Leech, S. L., Zucker, R. A., Loveland-Cherry, C. J., Jester, J. M., Fitzgerald, H. E., et al. (2004). Really underage drinkers: Alcohol use among elementary students. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 28, 341â€“349.
- 17. Wood, M. D., Read, J. P., Mitchell, R. E., & Brand, N. H. (2004). Do parents still matter? Parent and peer influences on alcohol involvement among recent high school graduates. Psychology of Addictive Behavior, 18, 19â€“30.
- 18. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (2008, January 6). Children Are Introduced To Sipping and Tasting Alcohol In The Home. ScienceDaily. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103161553.htm.
- 19. Wood et al., 2004.
- 20. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011. Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Updated September 2012. See: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k11Results/NSDUHresults2011.pdf
- 21. Underage Alcohol Use: Where Do Young People Get Alcohol? National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report (November 2008). See: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k8/underageGetAlc/underageGetAlc.htm.
- 22. Alcohol Marketing and Young People, International Center for Alcohol Policies. See:http://icap.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=EkpMOGhCHU8=&tabid=243.
- 23. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2000). Tenth special report to the U.S. Congress on alcohol and health. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- 24. International Center for Alcohol Policies. See: http://icap.org/PolicyIssues/Marketing/KeyFactsandIssues/tabid/213/Default.aspx.
- 25. Anderson, P., de Bruijn, A., Angus, K., Gordon, R., & Hastings, G. (2009). Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 44, 229â€“243. Smith, L. A., & Foxcroft, D. R. (2009). The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: Systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health, 9, 15.
- 26. Collins, R., Ellickson, P., McCaffrey, D., Hambarsoomians, K., 2007. Early adolescent exposure to alcohol advertising and its relationship to underage drinking. Journal of Adolescent Health.
- 27. Adequate controls for confounding variables are necessary to ensure validity of research results. For an overview analysis of the literatures, see: http://icap.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=EkpMOGhCHU8=&tabid=243.
- 28. Epstein, J. A., Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. (2008). A social Influence model of alcohol use for inner-city adolescents: Family drinking, perceived drinking norms, and perceived social benefits of drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 69, 397â€“405. Scholte, R. H. J., Poelen, E. A., Willemsen, G., Boomsma, D. I., & Engels, R. C. (2008). Relative risks of adolescent and young adult alcohol use: The role of drinking fathers, mothers, siblings, and friends. Addictive Behaviors, 33, 1â€“14. van der Zwaluw, C. S., Scholte, R. H. J., Vermulst, A. A., Buitelaar, J. K., Verkes, R. J., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2008). Parental problem drinking, parenting, and adolescent alcohol use. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31, 189â€“200.
- 29. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) map of exceptions (if any) to underage consumption of alcohol across the United States, as of Jan. 1, 2011. Source: Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), "Exceptions to Minimum Age of 21 for Consumption of Alcohol as of January 1, 2011," www.alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov (See also: http://drinkingage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002591#relatedlinks
- 30. International Center for Alcohol Policies. See: http://www.icap.org/PolicyIssues/YoungPeoplesDrinking/AgeLawsTable/tabid/219/Default.aspx
EDUCATION AND TARGETED PREVENTION INITIATIVES
In efforts to prevent and stop underage drinking, programs have been developed and customized for various audiences, taking into account that influences such as parents, other family members, peers, educators, and role models contribute to young peoplesâ€™ choices about whether or not they decide to drink.1
Experts agree that parents talking with their children about drinking can play a key role in preventing the negative effects of underage drinking.Â For example, in the U.S., in addition to the Federal Trade Commissionâ€™s â€œWe Donâ€™t Serve Teensâ€ public education initiative, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) has developed a variety of initiatives ranging from Ask. Listen. Learn. (developed in conjunction with Nickelodeon for middle school-aged children), Alcohol 101 Plus (an interactive, online program designed to help college students make responsible decisions about alcohol), and Not in Our House (a nationwide initiative on underage drinking and social hosting).
Similarly, in the U.K., the Think-Donâ€™t Drink public awareness campaign targets youth in that country and promotes messages about responsible decision-making with regard to alcohol and drinking behaviors.2Â In Spain, an education program in schools which focuses on 12- to 16-year olds and their parents has been showing positive results, according to the Fundacion Alcohol y Sociedad. Between 2002 and 2006, the age at which teenagers report having their first drink increased from 13.9 to 14.50, and the percentage of underage drinkers decreased from 60.1 percent to 50.3 percent.3
A number of interventions have proven to be successful in influencing the decisions that underage youth make about alcohol. Early identification of problem drinking, followed by brief interventions aimed at modifying behavior, can help minimize harm among individuals who are alcohol abusers but not dependent. Such programs range from social norms marketing (aimed at correcting peer misperceptions) to server training programs and life skills programs in schools and communities.4Â Examples of such programs from across Europe are summarized in the annual EFRD/CEPS brochure on alcohol industry initiatives developed to help reduce alcohol-related harm (at www.efrd.org). In addition, examples of such efforts in the United States can be found at www.mystrongfamily.com and www.talkaboutalcohol.com.
RESPONSIBLE MARKETING AND AD PLACEMENTS
There are well-established industry codes for responsible marketing worldwideâ€”codes which comprehensively address the importance of marketing and advertising practices which are directed to only consumers of legal drinking age. These codes include the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing and similar codes of responsibility established by The Beer Institute and The Wine Institute, the European Spirits Association (CEPS), the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD) Common Standards on Commercial Communications, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA), the Brewers Association of Japan and the Japan Spirits & Liquors Makers Association, and the Portman Group in the United Kingdom.
Two key elements of such codes are industry standards for ad content as well as ad placement. Ad content standards include commitments similar to those found in the Brown-Forman Marketing, Advertising, and Promotional Policy, which specifies that:
Ads should not feature children, cartoon figures, or anything that appeals primarily to persons below the legal drinking age.
There should be no suggestion that alcohol use represents a â€œrite of passageâ€ to adulthood.
There should be no suggestion that drinking alcohol is a means to attain success.
Models and actors employed must be a minimum of 25-years old, and appear to be at least 21-years old.
The industry standard in the U.S. for ad placements includes a key commitment to direct marketing to only adults of legal drinking age, and to advertise only in media with audiences that are at least 70 percent legal drinking age or older.5Â (Brown-Forman has taken an additional step of planning our placements to deliver total cumulative impressions by brand and by media to average at least an 80 percent LDA audience. For more information, see http://www.brown-forman.com/responsibility/.)
There are criticisms of the self-regulation approach, most of which fall along the lines of â€œis the fox guarding the hen house?â€ To that point, in its third study on this topic in 2008, the FTC stated that â€œthe current 70 percent baseline standard has helped to ensure that alcohol advertising is not disproportionately directed to those below the legal drinking age.â€ The report found that more than 97 percent of total alcohol advertising impressions among the 12 DISCUS member companies were in compliance with the 70 percent standard. The report also noted that all three segments of the alcohol industry (wine, beer, spirits) have adopted systems for third-party review of advertising complaints.6
In Europe, based on a study initiated to measure industry compliance with its own advertising codes, the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) recently reported a 99.7 percent compliance rate following significant tightening of standards in 2005.7Â (For more on this topic, see The Issues Forum entry on Self-Regulation and Responsible Marketing Code.)
THE STRONG INFLUENCE OF PARENTS AND FAMILY
The majority of youth surveyed who report drinking say that they get the alcohol they drink from family and friendsâ€”from their parents, their friends’ parents, older siblings or family members or older friends, with or without permission. As noted in the Research section of this Issues Brief, according to the 2012 Roper Youth Report, of the individuals between the ages ofÂ 13 and 17 surveyed in the U.S., 73 percent identified their parents as the leading influence that might affect their decisions about drinking8.Â Education and prevention programs such as the Responsibility.orgâ€™s Ready or Not initiative stem from research results such as 97 percent of young people claiming they believe they have enough information to make the right decisions about drinkingâ€”yet half of the sixth through 12th graders surveyed reported drinking alcohol within the past month9.Footnotes Less
- 1. Houghton & Roche, 2001.
- 2. See: http://www.centurycouncil.org.
- 3. See: http://www.alcoholysociedad.org/.
- 4. For a complete listing of targeted intervention examples worldwide, see: International Center for Alcohol Policies, Blue Book, Module 12. See: http://www.icap.org/Publication/ICAPBlueBook/tabid/148/Default.aspx.
- 5. Since 2006, Brown-Forman media buying plans have been designed to deliver at least 80 percent of total impressions to those LDA and above. See: http://brown-forman.com/responsibility/. For more information generally, see the ICAP Report (#9) on Self-Regulation of Beverage Alcohol Advertising at http://www.icap.org/Publication/ICAPReports/tabid/147/Default.aspx.
- 6. Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry: Report of the Federal Trade Commission (June 2008). See: http://www2.ftc.gov/opa/2008/06/alcoholrpt.shtm.
- 7. See: http://www.asa.org.uk/News-resources/Media-Centre/2010/Alcohol-Advertising-Survey.aspx
- 8. Gfk Roper Youth Report 2012, http://www.centurycouncil.org/underage-drinking/what-youth-say-about-alcohol
- 9. See: http://www.centurycouncil.org/content/97-kids-believe-they-have-enough-information-make-right-decision-about-drinking.