March 31st, 2006

Alcohol-Branded Merchandise Boosts Teen Drinking

Forbes

T-shirts, hats and other merchandise featuring an alcohol brand may raise risks for underage drinking, new research shows.

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School tracked middle school students, ages 10 to 14, in northern New England for two years and found that young teens who owned alcohol-branded merchandise were much more likely to start drinking than peers who didn’t own such items—25.5 percent vs. 13.1 percent, respectively.

T-shirts, hats, pants, and jackets were the most common forms (83 percent) of alcohol-branded merchandise identified. Other items included bags/backpacks, alcohol paraphernalia, wall decor, and electronic items.

“This study is a first look at the association between alcohol-branded merchandise and initiation of alcohol use in teens,” study lead author Dr. Auden McClure, clinical instructor in pediatrics, said in a prepared statement.

“Our research found that students who owned an alcohol-branded item were significantly more likely to have initiated alcohol use than students who did not own one. We recommend that parents discourage their children from wearing these products and that schools limit the display of alcohol-branded items among students,” McClure said.

The findings, which appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, raise concerns about the link between alcohol-branded products and early onset teen drinking.

“We worry about early onset drinking because these kids are more likely to go on to misuse alcohol when they reach high school,” study senior author Dr. James Sargent, professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth, said in a prepared statement.

“We know from multiple studies conducted during the 1990s that ownership of tobacco-branded merchandise was linked with teen smoking. That’s why the tobacco companies voluntarily agreed to give up this type of marketing,” Sargent said.

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