The alcohol industry’s voluntary limits on traditional advertising are largely being ignored online, according to a report Monday in the Baltimore Sun
that outlines a study on the use of social media to sell alcoholic beverages — and its effect on kids.
“We tried to get a sense of everything the companies are doing on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and iPhone apps, and it’s amazing how much they’re doing,” David Jernigan, director the John Hopkins’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, told the Sun. “It’s far more than I think most parents or adults are aware of. It’s the Wild West without a sheriff.”
Jernigan was quoted as saying there is no way to determine for certain just how many kids are seeing and responding to the liquor marketing. But he added, “It’s probably a lot,” considering how many younger people use social media.
Jernigan told the Sun that while most of the ads he saw in his study are directed at legal-age drinkers, many of them are attracting the attention of kids because of the way they are designed.
He cited a Facebook ad with a beer bottle lit up like a Christmas tree as one example and a YouTube video featuring cartoon characters drinking to relieve stress as another.
The alcohol companies, however, disagree with the contention that their social media ads are irresponsible.
“Social networking sites are used primarily by adults, which makes these platforms responsible and appropriate channels for spirits marketers,” the Distilled Spirits Council said in statement to the Sun.
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