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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
quartile of exposure to movie smoking had initiated smoking, in comparison with 3 percent of those in the lowest quartile of exposure. After controlling for baseline characteristics, the researchers concluded that adolescents in the highest quartile of exposure to movie smoking were 2.71 time more likely to initiate smoking than those in the lowest quartile, and that, in this cohort, 52 percent of smoking initiation was attributable to exposure to smoking in movies.
On the basis of this limited, but suggestive, evidence, the committee believes that there is a strong possibility that youthful exposure to alcohol content in entertainment media contributes to early initiation of alcohol use. In light of that possibility, the entertainment industries have a social responsibility to eschew displays or lyrics that portray underage drinking in a favorable light or that glamorize or promote alcohol consumption or irresponsible behavior in products that are targeted toward or likely to be heard or viewed by large underage audiences.
Recommendation 8-1: The entertainment industries should use rating systems and marketing codes to reduce the likelihood that underage audiences will be exposed to movies, recordings, or television programs with unsuitable alcohol content, even if adults are expected to predominate in the viewing or listening audiences.
By “unsuitable alcohol content,” the committee means to include lyrics, images, depictions, or messages that portray underage drinking in a favorable light; that portray intoxication or otherwise excessive alcohol use by anyone in an attractive way; or that promote or glorify alcohol use in high-risk situations, such as while driving. Further specification of unsuitable alcohol content can be found in the advertising and marketing codes of the beer, wine, and distilled spirits industries. The committee urges the entertainment industries to review these codes to help develop specific standards for rating and marketing practices.
The challenge of promoting responsible industry practices regarding underage alcohol use is analogous to the challenge of reducing youth exposure to explicit sexual themes, violence, or illegal drug use. The committee accordingly reviewed industry practices in these areas—as well as the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prod the industry into stronger self-regulation. In the context of violent programming, a recent series of FTC reports is highly instructive. In a 2000 report, the FTC found that members of all three major entertainment industries—motion pictures, music, and video games—had engaged in widespread marketing of violent movies, music, and electronic games to children under 17 by promoting their products on television, in magazines, and on Internet sites that have large underage audiences (FTC, 2000).
The FTC found that 80 percent of the 44 R-rated movies selected for