Alcohol advertising is heavier around schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students than near schools with a smaller Hispanic population, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin's College of Education and the University of Florida's College of Medicine.
Dr. Keryn Pasch, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, wanted to determine if the number and content of alcohol-related advertisements within 1,500 feet of a school varied according to the ethnicity of the students at the school. Her findings show youth attending schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students see an average of seven times more alcohol ads each day than students at schools with a smaller Hispanic population.
"According to previous studies, Hispanic youth are at higher risk for alcohol use than either white or African American youth," said Pasch. "Exposure to alcohol advertising has been shown to increase alcohol use and intention to use alcohol, and marketers are aggressively capitalizing on the rapidly growing Hispanic population, targeting their marketing efforts at this group. Given these facts, I think it's critical to determine if alcohol advertising around schools is related to the ethnicity of the students and, if it is, to take steps to reduce the exposure of high risk groups to this negative influence."
In Pasch's study, of the 27 schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students, each had about 29 alcohol ads in the immediate vicinity, in contrast to an average of four alcohol ads near schools with less than 20 percent Hispanic students.
Alcohol ads also were more likely to be on bars and liquor stores near the schools with a higher concentration of Hispanic students.
The study indicated that alcohol ad themes varied according to the ethnicity of a school's student population. Schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students had more alcohol advertisements that employed Hispanic culture as a theme, and ads near these schools were five to 12 times more likely to use cartoons and animals than ads near schools with fewer Hispanic students.
"Alcohol advertising around schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students used the culture of the community significantly more," said Dr. Kelli Komro, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Florida. "Those ads employed visual elements like logos of local sports teams, Spanish words and symbols of Hispanic culture such as Mexico's national colors. This may build brand recognition early on, putting youth at even greater risk for early onset and long-term alcohol use. Previous studies have shown that Hispanic youth are at higher risk for starting to use alcohol at a young age and for high-risk alcohol use."
According to Pasch, the alcohol ads also were more likely to feature cartoons and animals. Past research has shown that youth tend to remember a product that is associated with these images and are more likely to use that product--in this instance, alcohol.
"Communities need to press for restrictions prohibiting alcohol advertising around schools," added Pasch, "with special attention to the targeting of ethnic minorities by alcohol advertisers."