Alcohol endorsements from celebrities may put teenagers at ‘higher risk’ of alcohol abuse

Alcohol endorsements from celebrities including David Beckham, Mila Kunis and Ryan Reynolds may increase risk of alcohol abuse among teenagers, new research has claimed.

Published in the British medical journal BMJ, the study investigated how awareness of alcohol marketing impacts the quantity of alcohol adolescents and young adults in the UK consume.

For the study, which was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling and from Cancer Research UK, the team assessed data garnered from 3,399 Brits aged between 11 to 19 who’d taken part in the 2017 Youth Alcohol Policy Survey.

According to the findings, nearly a fifth of the participants owned branded alcohol merchandise, and were more likely to do so if they were current drinkers.

The participants of the survey were asked how often they’d seen alcohol marketing in the past month.

Nine examples of alcohol marketing were featured in the questionnaire, including advertisements in newspapers or magazines, on social media platforms, through celebrity endorsements, and through special price deals on alcoholic beverages.

A scale of one to six was used to measure how frequently the participants had noticed alcohol marketing over the past month.

Those involved were also asked whether they owned any branded alcohol, how often they drank alcohol and how much they typically drank.

Using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C), the researchers were able to determine how susceptible the participants of the survey were to alcohol marketing in accordance with their answers.

According to their findings, those with a greater awareness of alcohol marketing were more likely to be “higher-risk” drinkers.

The participants with high awareness of alcohol marketing reported seeing at least 54 examples in the past month.

The study also found that while 76 per cent of those surveyed were under the age of 18, 48 per cent were current drinkers, and 44 per cent were regarded as “high-risk” drinkers.

In the UK, it’s illegal for an individual under the age of 18 to buy or be sold alcohol, charity Drinkaware outlines.

A child over the age of 16 can be bought beer, wine or cider by an adult over the age of 18 if they’re eating a table meal together at an eatery that has an alcohol licence.

It’s also legal for children aged between five and 16 to drink alcohol at home or on private premises.

“Alcohol marketing is more than advertising; it exists in many different forms – more commonly known as the marketing mix – and we found this was reflected in what young people recalled,” said Dr Nathan Critchlow, lead author of the study.

“More than a third of young people recalled seeing alcohol advertising through television, celebrity endorsement, and special offers in the week before they participated in the survey, while more than a fifth recalled seeing outdoors adverts or adverts on social media.”

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, head of cancer policy research at Cancer Research UK, added that greater awareness is needed regarding the link between increased alcohol consumption and cancer.

“Alcohol can cause seven different types of cancer: mouth, breast, bowel, liver, pharyngeal, oesophageal, and laryngeal,” Dr Vohra said.

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“It’s responsible for almost 12,000 cancer cases annually in the UK, and worryingly only one in 10 people know its link to cancer.

The researchers stated that “further scrutiny and examination” is needed to assess how marketing in the UK affects young people.

For more information about alcohol consumption, visit Always drink responsibly.

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