Skip Navigation


September 13, 2011

Alcohol Ads Still Reaching Youth on the Radio

Industry’s Voluntary Standards Remain an Issue

Almost 1 out of 11 radio ads for alcoholic beverages in 75 markets across the nation in 2009 failed to comply with the alcohol industry’s voluntary standard for the placement of advertising, according to an analysis conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In 2003, trade groups for beer and distilled spirits committed to placing alcohol ads in media venues only when underage youth comprise less than or equal to 30 percent of the audience, which means 30 percent of the listening audience is 20 years old or younger.

The CAMY analysis found that 9 percent of the noncompliant ads were aired in the 75 markets where nearly half of the audience is radio listeners 12 and older.  Three brands alone—Miller Lite, Bud Light, and Coors Light—placed more than half of these violating ads.
The National Research Council, the Institute of Medicine and 24 state attorneys general have called on the alcohol industry to beef up its standard and meet a “proportional” 15 percent placement standard, given the fact that the group most at risk for underage drinking—12 to 20 year-olds—is approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population.

“A 9 percent failure rate for an already weak standard means that a significant number of young people are being overexposed to alcohol advertising on the radio,” said David Jernigan, PhD, lead author of the report, associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society, and CAMY director. “Reducing the voluntary standard to 15 percent would go a long way to keeping our young people safe and away from the undue influence of alcohol marketing. The influence of radio as a local media venue continues even in this dynamic digital age, as 93 percent of Americans ages 12 and older reported that they owned and/or used an AM/FM radio in 2011.”

For this report, CAMY analyzed radio alcohol advertisements in 75 local markets across the United States in 2009, for which full-year data from a consistent survey methodology were available. These markets represent 46.5 percent of the U.S. population age 12 and above. Other key findings include:

“The perception that young people are only listening to music on their iPods, cell phones and the Internet is naive,” said Jernigan. “Radio is still a source of entertainment for youth and alcohol ads are still finding their way to too many young ears.”

Alcohol use is the leading drug problem among youth in the United States. It is responsible for 4,600 deaths per year among young people under the age of 21. Every day, nearly 5,000 young people under the age of 16 take their first drink, and binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks within 2 hours) accounts for more than 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by young people.

At least 13 longitudinal research studies have found that the more young people are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking or, if already drinking, to drink more.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America’s youth. The Center was founded in 2002 at Georgetown University with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Center moved to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and is currently funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit

Media contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Natalie Wood-Wright at 410-614-6029 or