Friday, September 28, 2012

Racial disparities in advertising

As I have blogged about before, if approved Initiative 502 would create a marijuana industry similar to the alcohol and tobacco industries.  I-502 contains restrictions on marijuana advertising that are similar to alcohol advertising restrictions -- it does not ban advertising in mass media (television, radio, newspapers, magazine, the Internet) and it does not ban marketing to youth.

While there are multiple studies that prove that alcohol and tobacco companies market to youth, a recent report highlights how alcohol ads target African American youth.  According to the report,  African-American youth ages 12-20 see more advertisements for alcohol in magazines and on TV compared with all youth ages 12-20.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug among African-American youth. At least 14 studies have found that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, or if they are already drinking, to drink more.

“The report’s central finding—that African-American youth are being over-exposed to alcohol advertising—is a result of two key phenomena,” said author David Jernigan, PhD, the director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing & Youth. “First, brands are specifically targeting African-American audiences and, secondly, African-American media habits make them more vulnerable to alcohol advertising in general because of higher levels of media consumption. As a result, there should be a commitment from alcohol marketers to cut exposure to this high-risk population.”

A marijuana industry would act no differently than the alcohol and tobacco industries.  If marijuana is legalized, it will only be a matter of time before African American and all youth are exposed to advertising messages created just for them.

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