Alcohol advertising restrictions

Efforts to restrict alcohol advertisements can target advertising placement and content (i.e., images and messages). Alcohol marketing can be regulated by state laws or local ordinances, through self-regulation within the alcohol industry via codes of conduct, or by a combination of efforts. Restrictions can apply to advertisements in various settings including broadcasts (e.g., television, radio), written materials (e.g., newspapers, magazines), outdoor displays (e.g., billboards, store windows), internet marketing (e.g., social media), and sponsorship of concerts and sporting events. Restriction examples include limiting outdoor alcohol advertising in residential areas or school zones, prohibiting false or misleading alcohol advertising, and establishing explicit jurisdiction over in-state television and radio advertising (APRC-Advertising, CAMY-State laws 2012). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced alcohol use

  • Reduced underage drinking

  • Reduced excessive drinking

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved health outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that restricting the content and placement of alcohol advertisements reduces alcohol consumption and excessive drinking among adults and youth (, , ). Complete marketing bans can reduce excessive drinking more than partial bans (, ). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Panchal 2018, ).

Higher levels of youth exposure to alcohol advertising are associated with increases in alcohol consumption, earlier initiation of alcohol use, and binge drinking (). Among college students, viewing alcohol advertisements can increase immediate alcohol consumption compared to viewing other advertisements (). A survey of European adolescents reports that a higher level of exposure to online alcohol marketing is associated with increases in initiation of alcohol use and binge drinking (de Bruijn 2016).

Model-based evidence suggests that restricting alcohol advertising is associated with reductions in alcohol consumption (), disability, and premature deaths (IAS-Anderson 2006). A California-based study reports that cities with greater bar density are more likely to restrict alcohol advertisements in windows (Thomas 2012).

Complete marketing bans are cost-effective and have low implementation costs (); such bans are more cost-effective in areas with a low prevalence of hazardous drinking (Panchal 2018). Alcohol marketing restrictions can be cost-effective in both developed and developing countries ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Virginia’s youth presence law prohibits all types of alcohol advertising within 500 feet of schools, public playgrounds, and churches. Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Washington also implement some variation of this youth presence law to restrict alcohol advertising near youth-oriented locations (CAMY-State laws 2012). Oakland, CA also has an ordinance restricting alcohol advertisements. Adopted in 1998, the ordinance prohibits alcohol ads on billboards in residential areas and near schools. It also bans alcohol advertising within three blocks of recreation centers, churches, and licensed day care facilities (UMN-AEP). Baltimore, MD enforces alcohol and tobacco billboard ordinances and ensures regulation compliance through threat of fines and a community surveillance system (Meisel 2015).

Implementation Resources

UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions.

PIRE-Alcohol advertising 2004 - Center for the Study of Law and Enforcement Policy (CSLEP), Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). Model statutory language restricting alcohol advertising and alcohol sponsorship in state publications and on property owned, leased, or operated by the state. Baltimore: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY); 2004.

CAMY-State laws 2012 - Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY). State laws to reduce the impact of alcohol marketing on youth: Current status and model policies. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2012.

APRC-Advertising - Prevention First, Alcohol Policy Resource Center (APRC). Fast facts: Alcohol advertising restrictions.

Citations - Evidence

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IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006.

Weitzman 2004* - Weitzman ER, Nelson TF, Lee H, Wechsler H. Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the 'A Matter of Degree' program. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2004;27(3):187-96.

Saffer 1991* - Saffer H. Alcohol advertising bans and alcohol abuse: An international perspective. Journal of Health Economics. 1991;10(1):65-79.

Burton 2017* - Burton R, Henn C, Lavoie D, et al. A rapid evidence review of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies: An English perspective. The Lancet. 2017;389(10078):1558-1580.

Panchal 2018 - Panchal P, Waddell K, Wilson MG. Rapid synthesis: Examining the costs and cost-effectiveness of policies for reducing alcohol consumption. Hamilton, Canada: McMaster Health Forum; 2018.

Bosque-Prous 2014* - Bosque-Prous M, Espelt A, Guitart AM, et al. Association between stricter alcohol advertising regulations and lower hazardous drinking across European countries. Addiction. 2014;109(10):1634-1643.

Cochrane-Siegfried 2014* - Siegfried N, Pienaar DC, Ataguba JE, et al. Restricting or banning of alcohol advertising to reduce alcohol consumption in adults and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;(11):CD010704.

Jernigan 2017* - Jernigan D, Noel J, Landon J, et al. Alcohol marketing and youth alcohol consumption: A systematic review of longitudinal studies published since 2008. Addiction. 2017;112(1):7-20.

Stautz 2016* - Stautz K, Brown KG, King SE, et al. Immediate effects of alcohol marketing communications and media portrayals on consumption and cognition: A systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies. BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health. 2016;16:465.

de Bruijn 2016 - de Bruijn A, Tanghe J, de Leeuw R, et al. European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use. Addiction. 2016;111(10):1774-1783.

Thomas 2012 - Thomas S, Paschall MJ, Grube JW, et al. Underage alcohol policies across 50 California cities: An assessment of best practices. Substance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. 2012;7:26.

Chisholm 2018* - Chisholm D, Moro D, Bertram M, et al. Are the “best buys” for alcohol control still valid? An update on the comparative cost-effectiveness of alcohol control strategies at the global level. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2018;79(4):514-522.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions.

CAMY-State laws 2012 - Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY). State laws to reduce the impact of alcohol marketing on youth: Current status and model policies. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2012.

Meisel 2015 - Meisel PL, Sparks A, Eck R, et al. Baltimore City’s landmark alcohol and tobacco billboard ban: An implementation case study. Injury Prevention. 2015;21:63-67.

Date Last Updated

Sep 23, 2019