Evidence of underage targeting of alcohol advertising on television in the United States: lessons from the Lockyer v. Reynolds decisions

J Public Health Policy. 2014 Feb;35(1):105-18. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2013.52.


Underage alcohol use is a global public health problem and alcohol advertising has been associated with underage drinking. The alcohol industry regulates itself and is the primary control on alcohol advertising in many countries around the world, advising trade association members to advertise only in adult-oriented media. Despite high levels of compliance with these self-regulatory guidelines, in several countries youth exposure to alcohol advertising on television has grown faster than adult exposure. In the United States, we found that exposure for underage viewers ages 18-20 grew from 2005 through 2011 faster than any adult age group. Applying a method adopted from a court in the US to identify underage targeting of advertising, we found evidence of targeting of alcohol advertising to underage viewers ages 18-20. The court's rule appeared in Lockyer v. Reynolds (The People ex rel. Bill Lockyer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, GIC764118, 2002). We demonstrated that alcohol companies were able to modify their advertising practices to maintain current levels of adult advertising exposure while reducing youth exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advertising* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Advertising* / methods
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Television* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult