Alcohol distributors are limited to having a certain amount of exposure on ordinary mediums such as radio, television, and print. Their advertisements are meant to resonate to an audience that is legally allowed to consume alcohol. However, there are different constraints on the Internet, that allow them to reach younger audiences, especially on social media websites.
David Jernigan is the Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He believes that young people are being exposed to alcohol-related advertisements and imagery mostly on the Internet through social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Jernigan states that the alcohol advertisements on the Internet are “far more than I think most parents or adults are aware of.” He deemed the Internet “the wild west without a sheriff.”
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the organization in charge of responsible advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages, set forth new guidelines for alcohol companies to follow if they have social networking websites open to public view. Some of these guideline include “age-gating” before a person is allowed to enter the site. The legal age for the consumption of alcohol in the United States is 21 and older. The Council believes that “Social networking sites are used primarily by adults, which makes these platforms responsible and appropriate channels for spirits marketers.” However, considering that 22% of Facebook users are between the ages of 13 and 20, Jernigan hopes for tighter content controls as today’s technology becomes more advanced and it’s users become smarter.
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