Kids Seeing More Drinking in Movies

Alcohol brand placement in popular US films has increased over the years

(RxWiki News) Movie characters haven’t been smoking on the silver screen nearly as much as they used to. They have been drinking beer though, and more and more of it every year.

A recent study looked at trends in alcohol and tobacco product placement in popular, contemporary US movies.

The results of this study showed that tobacco placement has steadily declined while alcohol placement has steadily increased in popular films.

"Talk to your kids about drinking."

Elaina Bergamini, MS, from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, led an investigation into product placement of alcohol and tobacco in US movies.

According to the authors, paying for brand placement in entertainment media is a common practice in the US. Brand placement in movies and television has been considered a legitimate marketing practice by manufacturers of a variety of products, the authors continued.

“Evidence is accumulating that movies influence substance use behaviors during adolescence,” said the authors.

In 1998, the Master Settlement Agreement put limits on how tobacco products could be placed in movies and television. As of yet, no such limitations exist to regulate the brand placement of alcohol products.

For this study, the researchers looked at the top 100 grossing box office hit movies released in the US between 1996 and 2009. A total of 1,400 movies were reviewed for the product placement of alcohol and tobacco brands. The seconds of screen time for those product placements were tallied for each film.

Generic use of tobacco and alcohol, as well as labeled brand use of tobacco or alcohol products, were recorded.

The results of the study found that tobacco brand placements fell by 7 percent after the Master Settlement Agreement went into effect in 1998 and an additional 7 percent each year until it leveled off in 2006. Between 1999 and 2000, onscreen smoking declined by 42 percent in youth-rated movies and 85 percent in adult-rated movies.

During this same time, alcohol brand placement was self-regulated by the alcohol companies in US films.

The researchers found that alcohol brands had become more common in PG-13 rated movies from 1996 to 2009. On average, alcohol brand appearances went from 80 per year to 145 per year over the time period, meaning there was a 5 percent increase each year.

The top five most common brands of alcohol to appear in the films were all major beer companies.

“Alcohol brand appearances were far more common than tobacco appearances throughout the period and showed no declining trend,” said the authors.

The authors concluded that after the Masters Settlement Agreement, tobacco brand placement declined significantly. But with no agreement in place for the alcohol industry, brand placement of alcohol, especially major beer brands, has increased steadily over the years.

This study was published in May in JAMA Pediatrics.

The National Institutes of Health supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
May 25, 2013