Poster to prevent drinking and driving courtesy of MADD and The Ad CouncilA new study published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that alcohol advertising helps lead children and young adults to drink for the first time. And if those young people have already drunk alcoholic beverages, the ads lead them to drink more, as Justin Worland writes for Time magazine. The study’s findings are notable for this blog because among the negative effects of underage drinking is that it can lead to car crashes, as an abstract of the study says. According to the study:

Drinkers younger than 21 years, who consume approximately 20% of all alcoholic drinks, imbibe more heavily than adults per drinking episode and are involved in twice as many fatal car crashes while drinking.

As an example of its findings, the study says that a 20-year-old man who saw few alcohol advertisements and lived in an area with minimal alcohol advertising per capita was predicted to have nine alcoholic drinks during the past month, as opposed to 16 drinks during that period if he had seen a higher number of advertisements.

Further, the study predicts that a man of the same age who lives in an area with the highest advertising spending per capita would have 15 drinks in a month if he had seen few ads, and 26 drinks if he had seen many such ads. The study found similar results among people under the legal drinking age. This last fact is important, the study says, “because there is often a greater policy interest in protecting underage youth from harmful communications than in protecting youth older than 21 years.”

In addition, the study finds that the drinking levels of those young people exposed to fewer alcoholic-beverage ads declined as those people reached their early 20s. Conversely, those youths in areas with more alcohol advertising wound up increasing the amount of their drinking into their late 20s.

The study says that one reason its results are strong because of its relatively large sample. The study was based on a random samples of people ages 15 to 26 from 24 Nielsen media markets, who were interviewed four times between April 1999 and January 2001 using computer-assisted phone interviews. The study says it is based on 4,418 observations, 1,858 individuals, and 24 media markets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of every 10 teens drinks and drives. And young drivers (between the ages of 16 and 20) are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have not been drinking. A CDC chart shows that in Colorado, 8.5% of high school students age 16 and older report drinking and driving.

The CDC suggests that communities increase awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving among teens and parents. It also urges states to strengthen their enforcement of existing policies such as the minimum legal drinking age, zero-tolerance laws, and graduated driver’s license systems.

This blog reported earlier this month about a Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer who is offering a $1,000 scholarship to students who write an essay admitting that they drive while intoxicated. The lawyer, Christian A. Schwaner, said he believes teens would quit the bad habit of driving drunk once they admit to it.

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