The greater the familiarity with the ads, the greater these risks, researchers say

By: Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SUNDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) — Kids who recognize fast-food advertisements on TV are more likely to be overweight, and those familiar with TV ads for alcoholic beverages are more likely to drink, according to two new studies from Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

In one study, researchers questioned more than 2,500 young people ranging from 15 to 20 years old about their exposure to alcohol, if they had a favorite alcohol ad, and if they owned alcohol-branded merchandise, among other behaviors.

After being shown 20 images from the most popular TV ads for alcohol and 20 ads for fast food, with the brand names removed, the participants were then asked if they remembered the ads, liked the ads and knew about the products being advertised.

The researchers found that 59 percent of kids drank and 49 had engaged in binge drinking at least once the previous year. Familiarity with TV alcohol advertising was much higher among the drinkers than nondrinkers, and having alcohol-branded merchandise or having a favorite alcohol ad was linked to more hazardous drinking.

The studies were scheduled for presentation Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Boston.

“At present, the alcohol industry employs voluntary standards to direct their advertising to audiences comprised of adults of legal drinking age,” said study lead author Dr. Susanne Tanski, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Our findings of high levels of familiarity with alcohol ads demonstrate that underage youth still frequently see these ads,” Tanski added. “While this study cannot determine which came first, the exposure to advertising or the drinking behavior, it does suggest that alcohol advertising may play a role in underage drinking, and the standards for alcohol-ad placement perhaps should be more strict.”

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