YouTube music videos may get teens hooked to booze, cigarettes

Posted Feb 3, 2016 by Sravanth Verma
A study examining Youtube music videos from Britain's top 40 chart has questioned whether the high prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption in the videos might be a strategy by companies to target teenage audiences.
Beyoncé Knowles performing with husband Jay-Z.
Beyoncé Knowles performing with husband Jay-Z.
Creative Commons
University of Nottingham researchers looked through top music videos over a three-month period in 2013-2014 and found that there were 47 10-second intervals with tobacco content, 233 intervals with alcohol visuals, and six with electronic cigarettes. The researchers then conducted a survey among teenagers and found that 22 percent had watched at least one. They estimate the teens were exposed to 10 tobacco and 52 alcohol visuals in this time period — assuming that they had watched the video just once, which is quite unlikely.
Beyonce's "Drunk in Love" and Pitbull's "Timber" had the highest alcohol content, while Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Jason Derulo's "Trumpets" featured the most smoking. Alarmingly, girls in the 13-15 years category had a 65 percent higher exposure rate than boys.
"If these levels of exposure were typical, then in 1 year, music videos would be expected to deliver over 4 billion impressions of alcohol, and nearly 1 billion of tobacco, in Britain alone," the researchers write.
Researchers have expressed alarm because prior research has clearly indicated that teenagers exposed to alcohol and tobacco are much more likely to take drugs as well. Researchers are questioning whether tobacco and liquor companies might be paying musicians or record labels to include such scenes featuring prominent musicians. While music itself is known to have many health benefits, music videos might be adding a distressing twist to the mix.
Unlike films which are rated based on age-appropriateness, and television, which has restrictions on what can be shown in particular time slots, music videos are unrestricted and easily accessible via YouTube, making them easy targets for companies looking to insert products.
Professor of health policy at Curtin University in Western Australia, Mike Daube, said, "Both the alcohol and tobacco industries are incredibly innovative in finding ways to promote their products, and have a long history of paid product placement. We will probably never know how much product placement has been going on, but it would be amazing if the companies were not behind at least some of it."
The research titled "Adult and adolescent exposure to tobacco and alcohol content in contemporary YouTube music videos in Great Britain: a population estimate" was published in the British Medical Journal in January 2016.