ADVERTISING THAT TARGETS MINORS

Legal provisions in many States prohibit ads of any type in which advertisers intend to target children, minors, or those under the legal drinking age, or encourage them, induce them, or make a special appeal to them to buy or consume alcoholic beverages. Targeting-of-minors provisions can also prohibit advertising that uses images of children or models who are under the legal drinking age. We have focused on the specific wording of each statute because, although a State agency can pursue legal action against such ads through false or misleading provisions, enforcement is much easier when there is a specific provision against targeting minors. On the other hand, a provision that is poorly drafted will probably undermine a general false or misleading statute; a court is likely to conclude that the State legislature intended the targeting-of-minors provisions to override (or serve as an interpretation of) a general false-and-misleading provision. For this reason, if a State has a targeting-of-minors provision, it is important that the scope of the provision not be unduly restricted.

At present, 25 States have provisions of the type analyzed for this report. The variables in the chart below are defined as follows:

  • Reference —This variable describes how the legal provision defines the audience that is not to be targeted. Nine States use the term “children” while 6 States refer to those “under the legal drinking age.” Fourteen States refer to “minors”, and in Kentucky and New Mexico the audience is not specified.

  • Placement —Nine States prohibit the placement of alcohol advertisements in school-related locations (this may include schools, universities, school buses, and yearbooks). Three States prohibit advertising near churches, and 3 States prohibit advertisements near playgrounds.

  • Symbols —States may also restrict the use of symbols that can be depicted in advertisements. Six States prohibit the use of symbols of children; 4 States restrict symbols related to holidays such as Christmas or Easter; and 5 States prohibit the use of toys or other items that might appeal to children.

  • Wording —Seven States prohibit advertising that “induces” minors to drink; 5 States prohibit advertising that “encourages” minors to drink; and 8 States prohibit advertising that “makes a special appeal” to minors. In some States, more than one of these phrases may be used to prohibit advertising that targets minors.

Advertising That Targets Minors

(click to view Table)