Alcohol ads increase in areas with more Hispanic children
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Children are exposed to nearly seven times more alcohol advertising if they attend a school where at least one-fifth of the students are Hispanic, a new University of Florida and University of Texas study shows.
In a study of 63 elementary schools in Chicago, researchers found there were 29 alcohol ads on average in the two-block radius surrounding schools with larger Hispanic populations compared with an average of four ads around schools where less than one-fifth of students were Hispanic. In all, the researchers counted 771 alcohol ads around the 27 schools with more Hispanic students and only 160 ads around the 36 schools with fewer Hispanic students, the researchers recently reported online in the journal Ethnicity & Health.
“This is a concern because we know from past research that exposure to ads is associated with alcohol use and intentions to use alcohol,” said Kelli Komro, an associate professor of epidemiology in the UF College of Medicine and Institute for Child Health Policy and the study’s principal investigator. “We also know from previous research that Hispanic children are at increased risk for alcohol use at young ages.”
The ads around these schools were also more likely to contain cartoon images and animals, which other studies have shown can influence children, Komro said. Some of the ads, which ranged from billboards to signs around stores and bus stops, also seemed to attempt to tie into Hispanic culture by featuring Spanish words and the colors from the Mexican flag. About 70 percent of Chicago’s Hispanic residents are Mexican, the study states.
The schools the researchers studied were all located within the city limits of Chicago and most housed kindergarten through eighth-grade classes. Most of the students in these schools were from racial minorities — about half the children were African-American, while about 25 percent were Hispanic — and came from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
One key difference was that schools with more Hispanic students tended to have fewer African-American students and vice versa.
Overall, students were about seven times more likely to see advertising if they attended a school with at least a 20 percent Hispanic student body.
There are more than 45 million Hispanic people living in the United States, about 10 million more than there were in 2000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. A report the center released this month shows that the bulk of the population boom stems from more Hispanic children being born here rather than immigration. About 20 percent of public school students across the country are Hispanic, the report shows.
“According to previous studies, Hispanic youth are at higher risk for alcohol use than either white or African-American youth,” said Keryn Pasch, an assistant professor of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas and the study’s lead author. “Exposure to alcohol advertising has been shown to increase alcohol use and intention to use alcohol, and marketers are aggressively capitalizing on the rapidly growing Hispanic population, targeting their marketing efforts at this group. Given these facts, I think it’s critical to determine if alcohol advertising around schools is related to the ethnicity of the students and, if it is, to take steps to reduce the exposure of high-risk groups to this negative influence.”
To combat the problem, communities could band together to demand to have fewer alcohol ads around schools. This occurred in several African-American communities in Chicago where organizers were able to successfully lobby for fewer alcohol ads, Komro said. Also, ordinances that limit advertising around schools could be strengthened to further shield children from alcohol advertising, Komro said.
“Policies could be expanded to a wider range around the schools, especially given what we know about how effective ads are, both alcohol and tobacco ads, in influencing children’s behavior,” Komro said.