The alcohol industry has rejected claims that it encourages underage drinking by advertising on television shows aimed at teenagers.

“Study after study shows that parents and other adults are the primary influence of a youth’s decision regarding drinking, not advertising,” said Peter Cressy, president of The Distilled Spirits Council.

Cressy was challenging a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, which notes that in 2002 adspend on alcohol advertising rose 22% to more than $990 million (€757m;£508m). Correspondingly, beer brands were amongst the biggest advertisers on 15 teen programs.

The center regards this as particularly significant because the legal age for alcohol consumption in the US is 21. “The data demonstrates that the alcohol industry needs to make major changes in its advertising,” said Jim O’Hara, the center’s executive director.

The industry maintains that only adults see the majority of ads. And that on average teenagers comprise 10% of the total audience for shows which carry drinks ads.

Under a voluntary agreement the industry has agreed to pull any advertising on shows where teenagers comprise 30% of the audience. The center maintains the threshold should be increased.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online;additional content by WARC staff