Saying the measures could help reduce adolescent substance abuse, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has called for an end to all tobacco ads, limits on alcohol and prescription drug ads, and for the entertainment industry to stop glamorizing smoking and drinking, HealthDay reported Sept. 27.
The AAP said in a policy statement that companies spend about $25 billion a year on ads for alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. The AAP cited research indicating that advertising is responsible for up to 30% of alcohol and drug use by teens.
Pediatricians said they are concerned because over 400,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses every year in the United States, and over 100,000 die because of “excessive alcohol consumption,” including about 5,000 under the age of 21. Their statement cited a meta-analysis of 51 research studies showing that teens exposed to tobacco marketing are more than twice as likely to smoke. Other research showed a correlation between exposure to alcohol ads and drinking by adolescents and young adults.
The pediatricians also criticized the frequency with which smoking and drinking are shown on television and in the movies where children and teens can see it. They cited studies showing that exposure to smoking and drinking in the movies is a powerful factor in why teens initiate use.
“All of the top-15 teen-oriented shows contain alcohol ads,” said the AAP. “Currently, teenagers are 400 times more likely to see an alcohol ad than to see a public service announcement (PSA) that discourages underage drinking.”
According to the authors, prescription drug advertising sends a message that “there is a pill to cure all ills and a drug for every occasion, including sexual intercourse.” Between January and October of 2004, drug companies spent about $500 million advertising erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, yet contraceptive advertising was rare and controversial.
The statement concluded with 17 recommendations, such as: pediatricians should ask about media exposure during children’s routine health checkups; schools should educate all students in media literacy; the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) should launch anti-smoking and anti-drinking public service campaigns; ads for erectile dysfunction drugs should not be aired until after 10 pm; and the entertainment industry should acknowledge and address the health impact of TV shows and movies on teens and children.
The AAP policy statement, “Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media” was published in the October 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics.