Alcohol companies are increasingly using the latest new media technologies -- including cell phones, social networking sites, YouTube and other features of the expanding digital universe -- to reach young drinkers, a new report contends.
And existing regulations may not be keeping up with the marketing trend, the report's authors added.
They're calling on the Federal Trade Commission, state attorney generals and others to investigate the phenomenon and examine whether current mechanisms to protect youth from alcohol marketing still work effectively in the digital era.
Young people are being exposed to a 24/7 "digital marketing ecosystem that is transforming the nature of advertising," said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor of public communication at American University in Washington, D.C. and co-author of the report, titled Alcohol Marketing in the Digital Age.
One area the study authors want officials and activists to look at is weak age-verification mechanisms, pointing out how easy it is for a young person to enter a false birth date so they are legally "of age" to enter a Web site.
According to the report, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth estimates that underage drinking accounts for 12 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. alcohol market.
There are several major distribution platforms, the report authors stated, the first being social networking sites such as Facebook, where not only can companies promote their own brands, but they can enjoin consumers to promote their brands, too.