Teen drinking

The skeptics at STATS.org catch some selective reporting:

There was a positive association between exposure to TV beer ads in the sixth grade and drinking which ranged from 1.43 to 1.48 depending on the type of television ad. In other words, the sixth graders where 43 to 47% percent more likely to drink in grade seven based on seeing beer ads on tv.

But hold on – this was by no means the only factor to show such a positive association. The Times failed to mention that “Sports Activity” in the sixth grade delivered a higher odds ratio of drinking in the seventh – 1.60 or 60% more likely to drink. Low parental monitoring was greater than TV ads too (1.64), as was parental approval (1.69), and the approval of a friend almost doubled the chance of drinking (1.98). Deviant behavior (2.00) and peer drinking (3.20) were even greater predictors of beer consumption.

The Times also neglected to mention that the Rand researchers tried to account for the effect of these factors on one another in a series of complex calculations. The result, at least according to the tabular data in the study, shows that the odds ratio significantly diminished for all advertising (1.08 to 1.13 for TV ads). The factors most strongly influencing seventh graders to drink were, once again, peer drinking (1.40) sports activity (1.52), friend approval (1.53) deviance (1.54), and above all, whether they had drunk in the sixth grade (2.32).

I’m just as troubled by shoddy drug reporting, but there’s something very off-putting about the zeal of STATS. I don’t claim to know the impact of advertising, and even if it is effective with teens, I’m not sure I’d advocate restrictions. However, I find it difficult to believe that the alcohol industry’s large advertising budgets are ineffective and sufficiently narrowly target to influence only adults. They sometimes seem to react to excessive certitude with excessive certitude.

Another study finds that there may be a relationship between teen drinking and something not mentioned in the previous study:

In a study of more than 10,000 15- and 16-year-olds, British researchers found that teens with larger allowances were more likely to drink frequently, binge or drink on street corners and other public places.

[hat tip: CCSA.ca and Shannon]