AP Swallows anti-Alcohol Group's Findings on Alcohol and African-Americans

            Print media ran results of an anti-alcohol group’s study that warned black children are exposed to more alcohol marketing than their white peers, but the report left out information which undermined the study.

            The report didn’t make waves in the broadcast media, but the Associated Press picked up the study and it appeared on dozens of print and TV news Web sites. However, AP didn’t include a disconnect between the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth’s (CAMY) findings on alcohol marketing to minorities and its effect on underage drinking.

            Government surveys show a greater increase in white teenagers’ use of alcohol than African-Americans.

            “A growing body of research has shown that youth who are exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to drink and drink heavily,” concluded the CAMY study, adding that “The link between exposure to alcohol marketing and early initiation of alcohol use is of particular concern.”

            But while the AP article noted that “The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) called the report misleading,” it left out the most damning data to discredit the CAMY report: a government study showing white teenagers had a much higher alcohol use rate than blacks.

            Data from the 2004 Monitoring Our Future survey by the National Institute on Drug Abue, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that white and black 8th graders are not far apart in their use of alcohol within the past month: 19.2 and 16.2 percents respectively. But by the last year of high school, more than half of white students have had alcohol within the past month, compared to just over 29 percent of black students.

            “If, in fact, beverage alcohol advertising had anything to do with underage drinking levels we would expect the impact to have a cumulative affect,” DISCUS chief economist David Ozgo told the Business & Media Institute.

            In March of this year, ABC’s “20/20” aired an alarmist piece on binge drinking by college coeds without mentioning the links its subject Koren Zailckas had to CAMY.

            Far from being a dispassionate academic study group. CAMY encourages regulatory action to correct what it sees as irresponsible behavior by alcohol marketers. As early as April 4, 2003, David Jernigan, CAMY’s executive director, called for a ban on alcohol advertising on TV with more than 10 percent “youth viewership.” While saying he didn’t care if the ban was the result of government action or was voluntary, he hinted at his preferred option by arguing that the “basic interests of the industry do not overlap with public health,” and “they’d lose one-half of their market,” were they to implement his policy suggestions.