October 3, 2010 - The causes of adolescent substance use are multifactorial, but the media can play a key role. Tobacco and alcohol represent the 2 most significant drug threats to adolescents. More than $25 billion per year is spent on advertising for tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs, and such advertising has been shown to be effective.
Digital media are increasingly being used to advertise drugs. In addition, exposure to PG-13– and R-rated movies at an early age may be a major factor in the onset of adolescent tobacco and alcohol use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ban on all tobacco advertising in all media, limitations on alcohol advertising, avoiding exposure of young children to substance-related (tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs) content on television and in PG-13– and R-rated movies, incorporating the topic of advertising and media into all substance abuse–prevention programs, and implementing media education programs in the classroom.
The AAP is targeting advertising because it works. Advertising may be responsible for as much as 30 percent of alcohol and tobacco use, the authors say. When Camel cigarettes started an ad campaign using a cartoon camel as its mascot, its market share went from 0.5 percent of teen smokers to 32 percent. And, exposure to tobacco marketing more than doubles the risk of a teenager starting to smoke, the paper states.
References: Policy Statement—Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media, the Council on Communications and Media, American Academy of Pediatrics, Published online September 27, 2010, PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1635); Pediatricians Want to Restrict Ads for Tobacco, Booze, Viagra American Academy of Pediatrics would ban cigarette advertisements altogether by Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter, HealthDay - Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 9/27/2010.