Online music videos are heavily exposing teenagers to positive depictions of smoking and drinking alcohol, research suggests.
Such portrayals posed a “significant health hazard that requires appropriate regulatory control”, researchers said.
YouTube videos of songs in the top 40 singles chart were examined by the University of Nottingham study.
The British Board of Film Classification started putting age ratings on online pop videos last year.
The research, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said girls between the ages of 13 and 15 were the most exposed to cigarettes and alcohol in videos.
Using pollsters YouGov, researchers asked 2,068 11- to 18-year-olds and 2,232 over-19s whether they had seen the videos, taken from the chart between 3 November 2013 to 19 January 2014.
The average viewing percentage across the 32 music videos was 22% for the younger group and 6% for the elder.
“It is well established that young people exposed to depictions of tobacco and alcohol content in films are more likely to start smoking or to consume alcohol, but the effect of imagery in other media, including new online media such as YouTube music videos, has received relatively little attention,” research author Dr Jo Cranwell said.
Her research calculated the number of “impressions” – any verbal or visual reference – of alcohol or tobacco imagery in the videos.
When Dr Cranwell extrapolated the data to estimate the overall affect on the British population, she concluded the 32 videos were responsible for 1,006 million impressions of alcohol and a further 203 million of tobacco.
“If these levels of exposure were typical, then in one year, music videos would be expected to deliver over four billion impressions of alcohol, and nearly one billion of tobacco, in Britain alone,” she said.
“Further, the number of impressions has been calculated on the basis of one viewing only, however, many of the videos had been watched multiple times, so this number is likely to be much bigger.”
According to a report last year from the Office for National Statistics, Britain’s young people are turning away from alcohol in droves. The proportion of 16-24-year-olds who do not drink increased by more than 40 per cent between 2005 and 2013. Today, one in five is teetotal. Binge drinking has fallen by more than a third and just one in 50 young adults describe themselves as a frequent drinker.
In reality, a number of factors – less disposable income, a reaction to the overindulgence of the previous generation, the prominence of social media – have apparently converged to call time at the bar for Britain’s young people.
Similarly, says Dr James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, children of hedonistic generations often turn away from alcohol.
“People just don’t want to look like their parents. It happened in the 1930s, it happened in the 1980s and it’s possibly happening again now.”
Generation X (which was my generation) and the X could so easily have stood for eXcess has been replaced by Generation Y, or whY bother drinking? Curiouser and curiouser and good news to boot 🙂