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Am J Prev Med. 2006 Apr;30(4):277-83.

Ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise and initiation of teen drinking.

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Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756, USA.



The alcohol industry spends over $5 billion a year on marketing, much of which is accessible to children. The distribution of branded articles of clothing and other personal items is one aspect of alcohol marketing that has not been adequately studied. In this study, the prevalence of ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise (ABM) was determined in a sample of rural northern New England adolescents, and the relationship between ownership of such items and initiation of alcohol use was examined.


Northern New England middle school students who had not yet initiated alcohol use were captured at baseline in a 1999 school-based survey, and ownership of an ABM item and initiation of alcohol use were determined 1 to 2 years later by telephone. The analysis controlled for demographics (gender, grade in school); characteristics of the child (school performance, sensation seeking, rebelliousness); parenting style; and peer alcohol use.


Of 2406 baseline never-drinkers, 15% had initiated alcohol use and 14% owned an ABM item by follow-up. ABM items consisted primarily of articles of clothing such as t-shirts and hats. ABM ownership was associated with higher grade in school, male gender, exposure to peer drinking, having tried smoking, poorer academic performance, higher levels of sensation seeking and rebelliousness, and less-responsive and restrictive parenting styles. Owners of ABM items at follow-up had higher rates of alcohol initiation compared with non-owners (25.5% vs 13.1%, respectively, p<0.001). After adjusting for the above confounders, students who owned an ABM item were significantly more likely to have initiated alcohol use compared with students who did not own one (adjusted odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval, 1.1-2.0).


In this northern New England adolescent sample, ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise was prevalent and exhibited an independent cross-sectional association with onset of adolescent drinking. Further studies are necessary to determine whether the relationship is causal, and whether teen use of ABM items influences peer drinking norms and behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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