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Despite being exposed to alcohol advertisements more than the others, African American youth consume less alcohol than any other racial or ethnic group. Researchers say this may be linked to factors such as poverty, social norms and religion that temper some of advertising’s impacts. According to a new study, young African Americans between the ages 12-20 see far more alcohol ads on television and in magazines than youths in general. The report was published Thursday by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Researchers attribute two key factors to the exposure: Many alcohol ads specifically target African Americans and African American youth consume more media than youth overall. Data released from Nielsen revealed that African American youth watched 53 percent more television than youths in general in 2010. Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said he hadn’t seen the study and couldn’t comment on it, but rejects the belief that marketers for alcoholic beverages are targeting youth. “The beer, wine and spirits industry (is) totally opposed to underage drinking and spends millions of dollars a year fighting it,” Coleman said. Coleman said the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth’s research on the topic is flawed. It “has repeatedly issued press releases saying the industry’s advertising is increasingly targeting youth,” he said, even as statistics show that underage drinking is declining.
David Jernigan, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth doesn’t believe Coleman. “The industry knows quite precisely what they are doing,” he said. Jernigan also said that African Americans who drink appear to suffer more serious consequences. He attributes the lack of access to health care and substance abuse treatment, frequent incarcerations, and poor living conditions to the critical consequences. Alcohol consumption is linked to three leading causes of death among young African Americans – homicide, suicide and accidental injury. “There’s rationale for being extra careful,” said Jernigan, whose group receives funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has put out dozens of reports on alcohol marketing to youths over the last decade.