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Alcohol Companies Use New Media to Lure Young Drinkers: Report
Date:5/19/2010

Spirits industry says it's committed to responsible online advertising

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol companies are increasingly using the latest new media technologies -- including cell phones, social networking sites, YouTube and other features of the expanding digital universe -- to reach young drinkers, a new report contends.

And existing regulations may not be keeping up with the marketing trend, the report's authors added.

They're calling on the Federal Trade Commission, state attorney generals and others to investigate the phenomenon and examine whether current mechanisms to protect youth from alcohol marketing still work effectively in the digital era.

Young people are being exposed to a 24/7 "digital marketing ecosystem that is transforming the nature of advertising," said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor of public communication at American University in Washington, D.C. and co-author of the report, titled Alcohol Marketing in the Digital Age.

"Youth are at the center of an exploding digital culture," added Montgomery, who, with another co-author of the report, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, spoke at a Tuesday teleconference.

One area the study authors want officials and activists to look at is weak age-verification mechanisms, pointing out how easy it is for a young person to enter a false birth date so they are legally "of age" to enter a Web site.

"Close to 5,000 people under the age of 21 die of alcohol overuse each year," noted David Jernigan, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Virtual worlds show all of the appeal and none of the consequences of alcohol use and undercut efforts to reduce the incidence of underage drinking. At this point, alcohol companies appear limited only by their imaginations and pocketbooks."

According to the report, the Center on Alcoh
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