Booze Brands in Pop Lyrics May Spur Teen Drinking, Study Says

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TUESDAY, April 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Young people who listen to music that mentions specific alcohol brands are more likely to drink and abuse alcohol, a new study finds.

The average teen is exposed to about eight alcohol brand name mentions per day, said study corresponding author Brian Primack, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh.

"This is based on average exposure of 2.5 hours of music per day, with 3-4 brand mentions each hour," he said. "However, this is just an average. For some kids it will be more, and for others it will be less."

The researchers collected information from more than 3,400 males and females, aged 15 to 23, in the United States. The link between hearing alcohol brands mentioned in music and drinking behaviors is strong, they said.

The participants were placed in three categories -- low, medium and high -- based on how much they liked music that mentioned alcohol brands. Compared to young people in the low group, those in the high group were over three times more likely to have had a complete drink of alcohol in their lifetime, and were twice as likely to have engaged in binge drinking, according to the study in the June online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The findings are "worrisome," and further research is needed to determine if being receptive to alcohol brand names in music predicts problem drinking among young people who were not drinkers to start, said Lisa Henriksen, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, in a journal news release.

She also suggested that the inclusion of alcohol brands in music is a stealth marketing tactic used by the alcohol industry.

"It would be foolish to think that the alcohol industry is unaware of and uninvolved with alcohol-brand mentions in music," Henriksen said. "The strategy of associating products with hip culture and celebrities who are attractive to youth comes straight from a playbook written by the tobacco industry."

About 39 percent of U.S. teens are current drinkers, and about 22 percent are binge drinkers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Responding to the new study, Lisa Hawkins, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, said the report "completely ignores the fact that underage drinking is at historic lows and, most importantly, that the overwhelming instances of brand-name references in song lyrics are not solicited or paid for by alcohol companies.

"The study authors conveniently ignore this, and if they have a bone to pick it is with the artists who are protected by the First Amendment," she added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about underage drinking.