Study Finds Underage Drinkers Prefer Top Alcohol Brands

The first national study to identify alcohol brands consumed by underage youth finds the top 25 brands accounted for almost half of youth alcohol consumption. Nearly 28 percent of underage drinkers consumed Bud Light in the past month, while 17 percent drank Smirnoff malt beverages and 15 percent drank Budweiser.

Underage drinkers consume far fewer brands than adults tend to drink, according to study co-author David Jernigan, PhD, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study found that other brands popular among underage youth include Smirnoff Vodkas, Coors Light, Jack Daniel’s Bourbons, Corona Extra, Mike’s, Captain Morgan Rums and Absolut Vodkas.

“We monitor what brands of cigarettes kids are smoking, which was how we knew about the popularity of Joe Camel,” Dr. Jernigan says. “But until now, no one has been monitoring what brands of alcohol they are drinking. We’ve shown that this kind of study can be done, and now it should be done on a regular basis.”

Dr. Jernigan says this report paves the way for future studies to examine the link between exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing efforts, and drinking in young people.

By age 15, half of teens have had at least one drink, and by age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have done so, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Jernigan notes many studies have found the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink. If they are already drinking, such exposure leads them to drink more.

In the new study, researchers at CAMY and the Boston University School of Public Health conducted an online survey of 1,032 youth ages 13 to 20. Participants were asked about their past 30-day consumption of 898 brands of alcohol among 16 alcoholic beverage types. They answered questions about how often and how much of each brand they consumed. The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Dr. Jernigan plans to look at how much the price of alcohol influences which brands underage youth drink, and to what degree they are mimicking adult consumption by choosing the same brands as adults. He will also be examining the relationship between youth exposure to alcohol ads by brand and the brands they choose to drink.

“This research will lead to insights that will inform public policy,” he says. “Everybody has gut sense that some brands are appealing to kids more than others. Now we know for which brands that is working.”

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