BYU students aid in researching effects of alcohol ads

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    By Summer McCann

    BYU students are entering the fight over Utah”s alcohol advertising regulations.

    Health Science students are participating in research aimed at measuring the impact new alcohol advertising regulations will have on Utah”s youth.

    “We surveyed nearly 150 junior high students in an attempt to examine the impact alcohol advertising has on them,” said Spencer Matthews, a senior majoring in advertising from Davis County, who participated in the research study.

    The junior high school students completed surveys designed to measure their basic alcohol knowledge and experience.

    They were also asked to identify the products and brand names of five different print advertisements with the logos removed.

    Of the participants surveyed, 75 percent of them could identify the Budweiser frogs, said Joanna Tholstrom, a senior studying marketing from Littleton, Colo. who also participated in the study.

    “The average age of the students who took the survey was 12 years old. We were surprised that such a large number of them recognized the Budweiser advertisement – even more than the Coke or Wendy”s ad,” Tholstrom said.

    The surveys also showed that a substantial amount of students reported at least one or more of their best friends drank or had tried drinking before, Matthews said.

    With the new, more relaxed alcohol advertising laws and the increase in advertising due to Olympic sponsors, this is an opportune time to do research in this area, said BYU professor Steve Thomsen, who teaches the research methods class that is involved in the project.

    “It provides an interesting window of opportunity. I think we are going to see a flood of alcohol advertising in this state, Thomsen said.

    In addition to the students already studied, Thomsen and his students are hoping to gain permission to administer the survey to more Utah schools before the Olympics in February.

    More students will then be tested in March and April.

    It will be interesting to see if teenagers are more knowledgeable and aware of beer and alcohol after the Olympics and the increase in advertising that is sure to occur, Tholstrom said.

    Thomsen”s research group is working with Dag Rekve, senior advisor of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in Norway, and a visiting professor of health science at BYU.

    Rekve testified before the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission during public hearings this fall.

    Rekve said he was concerned the issue was being framed as a religious concern rather than a threat to public health, Thomsen said.

    “Revke asked if I wanted to help in the research, and I immediately wanted to involve my students,” Thomsen said.

    “This gives them a chance to do real social-science research that could eventually be part of a published piece of work,” he said.

    Revke and Thomsen were also interested in doing research in this area after a recent statement issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church called for “new studies to be commissioned to analyze the impact of advertising on the state”s temperance interests, especially advertising”s impact on vulnerable youth.”

    This statement was submitted by The Church of Jesus Christ to the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission expressing its concern over the liberalization of Utah”s alcoholic beverage control laws.

    These more liberal advertising rules permit the advertising of hard alcohol, wine, and all beers on menus, billboards and in print publications.

    These guidelines, which had been temporarily in place since August, were formally adopted Dec. 7 by the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

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