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Mongan, Deirdre (2016) Adolescents’ exposure to alcohol marketing. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 56, Winter 2016 , p. 6.

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Alcohol Action Ireland commissioned the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway to undertake research on the extent and nature of Irish adolescents’ exposure to alcohol marketing and to determine the relationship between exposure to alcohol marketing and alcohol drinking behaviour.1 


The study population consisted of 686 secondary school children aged 13 to 17 years (52.6% boys, 47.4% girls), from 16 schools in counties Galway, Dublin and Cork. Between April and May 2013 students were asked to complete a questionnaire on their opinions, health behaviours, family, leisure activities, and exposure to alcohol marketing, and to complete an alcohol marketing diary to record all alcohol marketing they encountered during one week day and one weekend day. They were asked to note the alcohol brand being advertised, the media channel through which it was presented, where and when it was seen or heard, and how appealing the advertisement was to them.



Almost two thirds of the students reported that they consumed alcohol (boys 62.5%, girls 65.4%). This was more common among 16–17-year-olds (74.6%) than among 13–15-year-olds (53.5%). Among those who drank, 23.6 per cent of 13–15-year-olds and 51.4 per cent of 16–17-year-olds reported being drunk in the past month.


Girls were more likely than boys to report online exposure to alcohol advertising (Table 1). A number of different types of online exposure were measured.  In the previous week 72 per cent saw an online advert/pop-up for an alcohol product, 15.4 per cent received an online quiz about alcohol or drinking, 35 per cent were invited to ‘like’ an alcohol brand, 29.7 per cent  were invited to ‘like’ an event sponsored by an alcohol brand, and 21.4 per cent  were invited to go to an event sponsored by an alcohol brand.  Younger children were as exposed as older children to alcohol advertisements. Boys were more likely to report that the last sports event they attended was sponsored by an alcohol brand and to own alcohol-branded merchandise.  Children reported to have seen a mean of 7.4 alcohol advertisements in the week prior to the survey (boys 8.2, girls 6.5).  Those aged 13–15 years reported seeing more advertisements than 16–17-year-olds (7.6  vs 7.2).  Overall, 56 per cent  of children reported seeing more than four advertisements on a weekday and 54 per cent reported seeing more than four advertisements on a weekend day. 


Logistic regression analysis showed that increased exposure to alcohol marketing increased the risk of children engaging in the drinking behaviours examined (drinking alcohol, binge drinking, drunkenness, intention to drink in the next year), compared to children who were not exposed to alcohol marketing. In general, the higher the number of exposures (alcohol advertisements), the more common the drinking behaviours became.  Owning merchandise, which may be described as engagement with alcohol brands beyond passive exposure, was the strongest predictor of alcohol behaviours.



It is clear that Irish children are exposed to large volumes of alcohol marketing, which increases their likelihood of drinking alcohol and engaging in risky drinking behavior, which is consistent with results from research conducted internationally. Given young people’s vulnerability to alcohol-related harm, there is a definite need for immediate and effective action on alcohol marketing regulation.  These results indicate that the current Irish regulatory system fails to protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing.  


The proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 is an important first step in this regard as alcohol marketing will be regulated by way of a statutory code rather than the existing system of self-regulation. There will be restrictions on advertising of alcohol on television and radio, in cinemas and via outdoor media.  However, the bill includes no provisions dealing with online marketing, which is an important element of the alcohol marketing mix in Ireland and needs to be regulated. (Deirdre Mongan)


1 Fox K, Kelly C and Molcho M (2015) Alcohol marketing and young people’s drinking behaviour in Ireland. Galway: National University of Ireland Galway.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 56, Winter 2016
January 2016
Page Range
p. 6
Health Research Board
Issue 56, Winter 2016

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