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Young people and alcohol advertising

Young people’s views on alcohol advertising, marketing and availability have a direct influence on drinking patterns and sexual behaviour in society, say researchers who addressed a media briefing hosted by the Soul City Institute for Social Justice today.

Young people’s views on alcohol advertising, marketing and availability have a direct influence on drinking patterns and sexual behaviour in society, say researchers who addressed a media briefing hosted by the Soul City Institute for Social Justice today.

The researchers were presenting key findings of the recent studies on young people’s behavior in relation to alcohol consumption and alcohol advertising at a media briefing at the release of a Soul City Institute policy brief on “Alcohol marketing, youth and sexual health risks” based on a study conducted by Lebohang Letsela.

Letsela, conducted the research in a rural village in Mpumalanga and an urban township in Gauteng. The study is part of the STRIVE research programme consortium. Professor Neo Morojele Deputy Director at the South African Medical Research Council, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit shared research conducted in Tshwane as part of the International Alcohol Control Study.

“Soul City conducted the research with PhotoVoice methodology. Young people captured their experiences through photographic images and captions, complemented by focus group discussions” said Letsela.

Letsela said that often youth visit bars and taverns even when they have no money, and are therefore reliant on others to purchase alcohol for them, placing them at risk of unplanned and unprotected sex. Promotional activities such as hosting celebrity events, competitions and discounts that include “happy hour”, “ladies’ night” and “buy 1 get 1 free” also increase the likelihood that young people will go to drinking outlets.

According to Professor Morojele, the study indicates that all age groups had extremely high levels of exposure to alcohol advertisements, including on TV, at movies and on signs outside shops. Of concern were the adolescents' high rates of exposure to advertisements, even those who are not currently consuming alcohol.

The researchers highlighted evidence from twelve longitudinal studies which confirms that young people who are exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to initiate alcohol drinking at an earlier age, to begin to drink more at the outset and to continue to drink more throughout the life cycle. 

“In addition, young people who had already started drinking reported more exposure to advertisements than those who had not initiated drinking. The results support international concerns about young people's exposure to alcohol marketing.” said Professor Morojele

The youth and alcohol study found that alcohol advertising is appealing and persuasive to youth. Participants said: “It seems like this thing is nice. So, you want to go for it and taste this thing and once you taste, you will end up being drunk and you want to do that forever. So, advertisements are the ones that bring us to alcohol or lead young people to alcohol.”

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