U.S. Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) yesterday announced “their intention to monitor underage drinking trends and the extent to which alcohol industry advertising is reaching underage youth, including possibly holding a hearing on the issue.” Dodd cites “new findings from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth” as the driving force behind his concern.
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) joins the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the category of statistically-impaired, neo-prohibitionist organizations funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In fact, the anti-alcohol RWJF established CAMY with a five million dollar grant.
CAMY exists for one purpose: to accuse the alcohol industry of “targeting” underage drinkers. Yesterday CAMY released a study supposedly demonstrating that alcohol beverage companies target youth in their radio advertising. In December it was television, and last September CAMY made the same accusations about magazine advertising.
All these studies have the same flaw: teenagers watch a great deal of television, flip through huge numbers of magazines, and listen to music as if it were a fulltime occupation. The second sentence of CAMY’s most recent study intones “99.2% of teenagers (defined as ages 12-17) listen to radio every week — a higher percentage than for any other age group.” Which is precisely the reason that youth are “overexposed.” They listen to the radio more, so of course they’ll hear more radio ads. It doesn’t mean the alcohol industry is targeting them.
CAMY’s television study complained that youth are “overexposed” to ads for alcoholic beverages because they watch shows like Saturday Night Live, The Howard Stern Show, Days of Our Lives, A.J. After Hours, ER, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The X-Files in percentages that slightly exceed their proportion of the population. You be the judge: Is a beer ad on a show that starts after midnight evidence of youth “targeting”?