Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
Despite tremendous progress over the last 50 years, tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and alcohol is the number one drug used by kids. Both industries survive by replacing their dying customers with new ones. In spite of age limitations on access and use, children and teens are not only able to obtain tobacco and alcohol, but many become addicted to these products in their youth. One of the key factors that influences whether youth will begin -- and continue -- using tobacco or alcohol is marketing. And with the rapid growth of the Internet and digital media, advertisers are focusing their attention on new ways to reach young consumers -- especially youth of color who use digital media more than their white counterparts -- without parents or policy makers even knowing.
the path to success
The path to reducing harm from tobacco and alcohol products involves changing the environments those products are sold and consumed in. Steps to do that include passing excise taxes to increase the cost of tobacco and alcohol, putting the product’s harm out of reach -- for alcohol, that might mean reducing the number of places that sell it; for tobacco, it could be decreasing the places where people are exposed to cigarette smoke -- and regulating aggressive marketing practices aimed at youth.
To make these changes happen, advocates need to pressure decision makers to take action, often using the media as their megaphone. That’s where BMSG comes in. We study the media to better understand how the tobacco and alcohol industries are portrayed; conduct research to keep up with changes in digital media marketing (via social media, online video, mobile phones and virtual communities) and how tobacco and alcohol advertisers use it to reach youth; and then use our findings to help advocates get their perspectives and policy suggestions into the media and onto the radar of policymakers.
Tobacco control's unparalleled success comes partly from advocates broadening the focus of responsibility beyond the smoker to include industry and government. How can advocates apply lessons from tobacco to other efforts like the battle against Big Food? A study we conducted with our colleagues from PHAI offers insights.