The study conducted by Dartmouth Medical School researchers recommends that the alcohol industry follow the example of the tobacco industry and abandon the practice of distributing such promotional items.
Lead study author Auden C. McClure, M.D. is a pediatric physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, as well as a faculty member at the medical school. She and fellow researchers studied 2,406 middle school students from Vermont and New Hampshire, beginning in 1999.
Participants ranged from 5th through 8th graders and included only those who had never used alcohol. At follow-up, 1-2 years later, they were asked whether they owned an alcohol promotional item (API) and if they had initiated alcohol use. Fourteen percent of students reported they did own at least one API and 15 percent reported using alcohol. Adjusting for other factors, such as peer drinking, the researchers found a strong link between ownership of an API and alcohol use.
"Although more studies need to be done to see if this association holds in a more representative population, it is clear that APIs are prevalent among young adolescents and that ownership is associated with early initiation of alcohol use,” McClure said. "In addition, when adolescents wear these items they become walking advertisements for the alcohol industry, advertising to their peers. These concerns should prompt the alcohol industry to emulate the tobacco industry, which voluntarily ended the distribution of branded promotional items in 1998.”
McClure noted that parents and educators can play a role in influencing children's ownership of APIs: "From the perspective of the pediatric clinician, we hope this new evidence will prompt discussions to discourage parents from allowing APIs in their homes and to encourage schools to restrict APIs from being worn there.”
MEDICA.de; Source: Pediatric Academic Societies