When American teens sneak a drink, chances are they're downing a shot of hard liquor.
Beer and malt beverages come in a distant second and third, and wine barely registers on the radar, according to a study from the Boston University School of Public Health.
And this is scary news: Teens who prefer liquor are much more likely to indulge in high-risk behavior, like binge drinking, drinking and driving, smoking tobacco or marijuana and having multiple sexual partners, the researchers also found in the study that followed 7,723 teenagers ages 12 to 18 in eight states.
- Boys are more likely than girls to prefer liquor and beer.
- Teens "graduate" to liquor from beer and malt beverages, such as Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Silver or Hard Lemonade, and wine coolers as they get older.
- African-American and Hispanic teens prefer malt beverages to beer but not to liquor.
Study leader Dr. Michael Siegel blames it on television. "The number of liquor advertisements on TV has increased dramatically," he told Health Behavior News Service. "So it's not surprising that liquor has become very popular among underage drinkers and surpasses beer as the alcoholic beverage of choice."
Siegel said he does not believe that the type of alcohol teens consume affects their health directly. However, indirectly, the drinking patterns associated with the different types if liquor do have a strong influence.
"The study results suggest that youth might initiate drinking with sweeter, more-flavored alcoholic beverages like malt beverages and wine coolers, and that they progress toward harder alcoholic drinks, like beer and hard liquor--and the high-risk behavior," he explained to Health Behavior News Service.
A solution could lie in the way alcohol is marketed to teens. Wine, for instance, is not advertised heavily in teen-oriented media and does not appear to be part of their partying and drinking scene, a factor that might contribute to its lack of popularity. Siegel said that restricting advertising for malt beverages and wine coolers in youth-oriented media could have a dramatic effect on overall youth drinking.
The study findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
--From the Editors at Netscape