Alcohol marketing in movies increased significantly over the past two decades, especially in popular children’s films, researchers report.
Dartmouth’s Dr. James Sargent isn’t happy about that.
“Children and young people look to movie stars as role models,” said study co-author Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth School of Medicine.
“For alcohol companies, when a favorite star uses a certain brand of alcohol, that brand gets linked to all the characteristics young admirers see in their movie idol,” Sargent said.
“That’s why it’s no surprise that the brands commonly shown in movies are the most highly advertised brands, and the same brands underage drinkers tend to drink,” he added in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
For the study, the researchers analyzed the top movies in the United States between 1996 and 2015. The investigators found that alcohol brand placement rose an average of 5 percent a year, and 92 percent overall during the study period.
Almost nine out of 10 movies portrayed alcohol use, with specific brands appearing in 44 percent of films. Characters were shown drinking alcohol in 85 percent of the top movies rated for children, and specific brands appeared in about four out of 10 child-rated movies.
Budweiser, Miller and Heineken beer accounted for one-third of all brand placements, with Budweiser appearing in the highest percentage of child-rated movies (15 percent), the study found.
According to study co-author Samantha Cukier, who is also at Dartmouth, “Alcohol continues to be the drug of choice among young people.”
Drinking causes 4,300 deaths each year among Americans younger than 21, she added.
These new findings are concerning because movie exposure to booze has been repeatedly shown to predict future alcohol use and higher rates of problem drinking, Cukier said.
“The high frequency of brand placements in movies aimed at children and young adolescents raises questions about the adequacy of alcohol marketing self-regulation,” Cukier said. “I don’t think they are doing enough to avoid the underage segment in their movie alcohol placements.”
The study is scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Francisco. Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism urges parents to talk to their children about alcohol.