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Am J Public Health. 2014 Oct;104(10):1901-11. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301483. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

Regulating alcohol advertising: content analysis of the adequacy of federal and self-regulation of magazine advertisements, 2008-2010.

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Katherine C. Smith, Samantha Cukier, and David H. Jernigan are with the Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.



We analyzed beer, spirits, and alcopop magazine advertisements to determine adherence to federal and voluntary advertising standards. We assessed the efficacy of these standards in curtailing potentially damaging content and protecting public health.


We obtained data from a content analysis of a census of 1795 unique advertising creatives for beer, spirits, and alcopops placed in nationally available magazines between 2008 and 2010. We coded creatives for manifest content and adherence to federal regulations and industry codes.


Advertisements largely adhered to existing regulations and codes. We assessed only 23 ads as noncompliant with federal regulations and 38 with industry codes. Content consistent with the codes was, however, often culturally positive in terms of aspirational depictions. In addition, creatives included degrading and sexualized images, promoted risky behavior, and made health claims associated with low-calorie content.


Existing codes and regulations are largely followed regarding content but do not adequately protect against content that promotes unhealthy and irresponsible consumption and degrades potentially vulnerable populations in its depictions. Our findings suggest further limitations and enhanced federal oversight may be necessary to protect public health.

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