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Am J Prev Med. 2003 Oct;25(3):204-11.

The marketing of alcohol to college students: the role of low prices and special promotions.

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Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Health and Social Behavior, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Heavy episodic or binge drinking has been recognized as a major problem on American college campuses affecting the health, safety, and education of students. The present study examines the alcohol environment surrounding college campuses and assesses the impact on students' drinking. This environment includes alcohol promotions, price specials, and advertising at drinking establishments that serve beer for on-premise consumption as well as retail outlets that sell beer for off-premise consumption.


The study used student self-report data from the 2001 College Alcohol Study (CAS) and direct observational assessments by trained observers who visited alcohol establishments in communities where the participating colleges were located. The analytic sample included more than 10,000 students as well as 830 on-premise and 1684 off-premise establishments at 118 colleges.


Alcohol specials, promotions, and advertisements were prevalent in the alcohol outlets around college campuses. Almost three quarters of on-premise establishments offered specials on weekends, and almost one half of the on-premise establishments and more than 60% of off-premise establishments provided at least one type of beer promotion. The availability of large volumes of alcohol (24- and 30-can cases of beer, kegs, party balls), low sale prices, and frequent promotions and advertisements at both on- and off-premise establishments were associated with higher binge drinking rates on the college campuses. In addition, an overall measure of on- and off-premise establishments was positively associated with the total number of drinks consumed.


The regulation of marketing practices such as sale prices, promotions, and advertisements may be important strategies to reduce binge drinking and its accompanying problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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