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'Drink responsibly' messages in alcohol ads promote products, not public health
Date:9/3/2014

Alcohol industry magazine ads reminding consumers to "drink responsibly" or "enjoy in moderation" fail to convey basic public health information, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A report on the research, published in the September issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, analyzed all alcohol ads that appeared in U.S. magazines from 2008 to 2010 to determine whether messages about responsibility define responsible drinking or provide clear warnings about the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

According to the study, most of the ads analyzed (87 percent) incorporated a responsibility message, but none actually defined responsible drinking or promoted abstinence at particular times or in certain situations. When responsibility messages were accompanied by a product tagline or slogan, the messages were displayed in smaller font than the company's tagline or slogan 95 percent of the time.

Analysis of the responsibility messages found that 88 percent served to reinforce promotion of the advertised product, and many directly contradicted scenes depicted in the ads. For example, a vodka ad displayed a photograph of an open pour of alcohol with a tagline that implied the drinker had been partying all night. In small lettering, the same ad advised the audience to enjoy the product responsibly.

"While responsibility messages were present in almost nine out of ten ads, none of them provided any information about what it means to drink responsibly," says study leader Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Instead, we found that the vast majority of responsibility messages were used to convey promotional information, such as appealing product qualities or how the product should be consumed."

Federal regulations do not require "responsibility" statement
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Contact: Andrea Maruniak
amaruniak@jhu.edu
410-502-3373
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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