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Alcohol-Themed Merchandise Affects Kids' Drinking Habits

Branded hats, T-shirts may be causal factors for drinking initiation in adolescents aged 10 to 14

THURSDAY, Mar. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Non-drinking adolescents who own alcohol-branded merchandise such as hats and T-shirts may be more likely to start drinking, according to a report published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Auden C. McClure, M.D., of the Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues surveyed a nationally representative sample of 6,522 adolescents aged 10 to 14, including 4,309 who were identified as never-drinkers eight months into the study. The subjects were surveyed again at 16 and/or 24 months.

The researchers found that ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise increased from 11 percent at eight months to 20 percent at 24 months, with beer brands accounting for 75 percent of the merchandise. In the never-drinkers, they found that ownership was associated with susceptibility, and predicted drinking initiation as well as binge drinking.

"Importantly, the results very clearly demonstrate that alcohol-branded merchandise ownership is more than a simple marker of an adolescent with favorable attitudes toward alcohol use, strengthening the case for alcohol-branded merchandise ownership as a causal factor in initiation of alcohol use and binge drinking," the authors write. "This study, in concert with the literature to date, provides strong evidence that alcohol-branded merchandise distribution among adolescents plays a role in their drinking behavior and provides a basis for policies to restrict the scope of such alcohol-marketing practices."

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