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Marketing of Energy Drinks Placed on TV Channels that Appeal to Teens

March 30, 2015
Lebanon, NH

Though the Academy of Pediatrics advises against the consumption of energy drinks by teens, researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that manufacturers market the bulk of their products on television channels that likely appeal to teen audiences. First author Jennifer Emond, PhD and collaborators expanded their ongoing work on risk behaviors among teens and looked at the patterns of energy drink ad placements on TV over one year. They published their findings, "Patterns of Energy Drink Advertising Over U.S. Television Networks," in the Journal of Nutrition Education Behavior.

"These findings are relevant to anyone concerned about child health," said Emond. "Results are also useful to inform the current regulatory debates regarding a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to adolescents. Our study was the first to quantify airtime devoted to energy drink ads on national network and cable television, and results suggest that energy drink manufacturers could alter their placement of ads on TV to avoid reaching a teen audience."

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against energy drink use among children and adolescents because it may result in serious health consequences for some youths. Additionally, mixing energy drinks with alcohol is common practice. A previous study conducted by the Dartmouth group demonstrated that adolescents who had ever mixed energy drinks with alcohol were four times as likely to engage in binge drinking as their peers who had never mixed energy drinks with alcohol.

The Dartmouth group assessed airtime over a one-year period and described programming themes for the 10 channels found to have the most advertising time devoted to energy drinks. Results demonstrated that energy drink manufacturers placed the bulk of their advertising on channels that likely to appeal to adolescents. Six of the 10 channels with the most airtime included adolescents aged 12-17 years in their base audience.

"These findings are unique because they demonstrate that energy drink manufacturers advertised primarily on television channels that are likely to be popular with adolescents," explained Emond. "Parents should be aware that their children are exposed to energy drink advertisements when viewing certain channels."

Looking forward, Emond and her colleagues are focusing on energy drink marketing in venues outside of television. The Dartmouth group notes that energy drink manufacturers often use non-traditional marketing techniques such as point-of-sale promotions, which they will compare to purchase behaviors of adolescents in an upcoming study.

Emond is an Instructor in Community & Family Medicine at Dartmouth's Geisel School of MedicineJames Sargent, MD is the Scott M. and Lisa G. Stuart Professor of Pediatric Oncology, and co-Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center's Cancer Control Research Program. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, ScD is Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, and Community & Family Medicine, and a member of the Cancer Control Research Program.

"Patterns of Energy Drink Advertising Over U.S. Television Networks" was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants NIHGMS P20GM104416, PO1ES022832, Environmental Protection Agency Grant RD83544201, and philanthropic funds for postdoctoral training from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 12 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is one of 41 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute's "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation. Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials online at cancer.dartmouth.edu.

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