Pediatricians Call for a Limit on Tobacco and Alcohol Ads

Filed under: News, In The News, Weird But True, Alcohol & Drugs, Media, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Teens, New In Pop Culture

tobacco and alcohol ads

The AAP wants to restrict the kinds of ads your kids see. Credit: Corbis

Can just seeing pictures of, say, Joe Camel make a kid want to start smoking? Can a television shot of an ice-cold beer make a kid want to take a drink? The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so, and wants restrictions placed on alcohol and tobacco advertising.

In a new policy statement, "Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse and the Media", published in Pediatrics, the AAP calls for a ban on tobacco advertising in all media, including electronic; limitations on alcohol advertising and shielding young children from substance-related content on television and in movies.

More than $25 billion is spent every year on advertising for alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs -- money that has been shown to be effectively spent, the statement says. While illegal drugs are always a concern, alcohol and tobacco present an even greater danger to children and teenager because they're the first ones kids try and are gateway drugs, according to the statement.

A preadolescent or adolescent who smokes or drinks is 65 percent more likely to smoke pot than a child who doesn't, the article states, and the younger a child starts experimenting with substances, the greater the risk of serious problems. Every year 5,000 kids under the age of 21 die from excessive drinking, according to the article.

Parents have a role to play as well, the statement warns, urging parents to "exercise extreme caution" in letting younger children watch PG-13 and R-rated movies or adult-themed TV shows because they often show substance abuse. Exposure to more mature programming at an early age may be a "major factor" in kids starting to smoke and drink in adolescence, the paper says.

The article also recommends that advertising and media be discussed in substance abuse-prevention programs. It also calls on pediatricians to encourage parents to limit unsupervised media and "especially encourage removal of televisions from children's bedrooms." Having a television in the bedroom is associated with greater substance abuse and sexual activity for teenagers, the article says.

Pediatricians should also urge parents to limit children and young adolescents' access to channels that show a lot of substance abuse, such as MTV, Comedy Central and HBO, and to watch television and other media along with their children and teenagers and discuss what they see. They should also encourage parents to turn the television off during evening meals, the article states.

Related: Anti-Alcohol PSAs? Spare Me the Guilt and Pour Me a Drink

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.