Role Played by Media in Curbing Drug Abuse

Pediatricians should push for more stringent restrictions on advertising campaigns and the positive portrayal of tobacco and alcohol consumption in content aimed at children and adolescents, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement.

Researchers from the Council on Communications and Media said alcohol and tobacco companies often use celebrities, humor and other tactics to appeal to children and adolescents. “Advertising makes smoking and drinking seem like normative activities and may function as a ‘superpeer’ in subtly pressuring teenagers to experiment,” they wrote.

The glamorized image of smokers created by advertising fosters adolescents’ attraction to cigarettes and most likely contributed to the results of a 2009 study indicating that nearly half of all adolescents had tried smoking, according to the policy statement.

Research also linked the amount of advertising to a cigarette brand’s popularity. For example, the committee said Joe Camel increased market share for Camel cigarettes from 0.5% to 32% among adolescent smokers.

Alcohol advertisements also utilize fun, sexy images to appeal to teenagers, with most commercials appearing during teen-oriented television shows and sports programming.

Additionally, magazines with a primarily adolescent readership have 48% more advertising for beer, 20% more for hard liquor and 92% more for sweet alcoholic drinks than magazines targeting adult readers.

The council also said aggressive advertising for prescription drugs, such as Viagra (Pfizer), Levitra (Bayer) and Cialis (Lilly), sends the message to adolescents that a drug exists to treat every health problem, including sexual intercourse. However, advertisements for various methods of contraception are “haphazard and rare and remain controversial,” according to the policy statement.

Media portrayal

“Results of a number of correlational and longitudinal studies have confirmed that exposure to television and movie...