Alcohol Advertising Restrictions


Alcohol advertising restrictions include any policies that limit advertising of alcoholic beverages, particularly advertisements that expose young people to pro-alcohol messages. They can include regulations on electronic media (e.g., radio, television internet), print media (e.g., magazines and newspapers), outdoor billboards, and signs.


To reduce youth exposure to pro-alcohol messages

Typical Elements

  • Appropriate lawmaking body that governs the use of alcohol advertisements
    • Note: Most states use their Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency to administer advertising regulations because alcohol distributors and retailers must obtain licenses from this agency to do business in a state. The ABC agency has the authority to enact regulations, investigate infractions, and impose sanctions as needed (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2012).
  • Individuals/organizations with the expertise needed to support the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of new regulations or modifications to existing regulations. Specifically, people who:
    • Oversee the process for proposing new or amending existing restrictions
    • Oversee and/or have expertise (e.g., legal, political, financial) specific to the type and location of advertising to be restricted
    • Have the legal expertise to ensure that advertising restrictions do not violate First Amendment rights (particularly freedom of speech)
  • State-level advertising regulations with provisions that (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2012):
    • Prohibit false or misleading advertising, applicable to alcohol and all other products.
    • Prohibit alcohol advertising that targets underage youth. For example, Delaware has a model statute – “No licensee shall sell or offer to sell alcoholic liquor by means of any advertisement or promotion including any statement, representation, symbol, depiction, or reference, directly or indirectly, which… [w]ould reasonably be expected to induce minors to purchase or consume alcoholic liquor” (4 DE Admin Code 27 [VI] as cited in Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2012, p. 6).
    • Establish explicit jurisdiction over electronic media.
    • Restrict outdoor alcohol advertising (e.g., billboards, paintings, banners, posters) where youth are likely to be present (e.g., schools, playgrounds, and places of worship). Key criteria include establishing a distance threshold of at least 500 feet, including all types of alcohol beverage advertising, and displaying the international “child” symbol on any billboard in the exclusionary zone (Gabriel et al., 2008).
    • Restrict alcohol advertising on alcohol retail outlet windows and outside areas. Restrictions can include limiting the size, number, and content of exterior advertisements as well as prohibiting interior advertisements that can be viewed from outside.
    • Prohibit alcohol advertising on college campuses. Key criteria include prohibiting advertising in student publications that have a substantial readership less than 21 years old, providing exceptions to protect advertisers’ ability to reach those of legal drinking age, and including all college campuses located in the state.
  • Other kinds of restrictions, besides state-level regulations, that are likely to minimize youth exposure to alcohol promotion and advertising in public venues. Such restrictions can take the form of a local ordinance or voluntarily implemented business, event, or organizational policy. Examples include:
    • Banning advertising on buses, trains, kiosks, and billboards and in bus shelters and public schools and universities
    • Banning or limiting advertising and sponsorship at community events, such as festivals, parties, rodeos, concerts, and sporting events (Sharp, 1992)
    • Banning advertising in areas surrounding schools, residential areas, and faith organizations  (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003, 2012)
    • Restricting alcohol advertising on local agency websites
    • Restricting the size and placement of window advertisements in liquor and convenience stores (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003, 2012)
    • Setting a maximum for the percentage of total advertising space that alcohol advertising can cover (Sharp, 1992)
    • Enforcing existing restrictions on alcohol advertising (Sharp, 1992)
    • Reducing the disproportionately high number of alcohol billboards in low-income neighborhoods (Hackbarth, Silvestri, & Casper, 1995) and minority neighborhoods (Hackbarthet al., 2001)
  • Prevention champions and stakeholders to mobilize and build support for the policy within the community. Key stakeholders can include law enforcement; religious, educational, or parent groups; town councils; and local advertising or marketing firms. Since key stakeholders may or may not support restrictions on alcohol advertising, be prepared to provide evidence on the association between alcohol advertising and underage drinking behaviors.
  • Advertising restrictions combined with other prevention efforts (e.g., keg registration, enforcement of bar capacity regulations) to maximize their effectiveness (Weitzman, Nelson, Lee, & Wechsler, 2004).


Youth under age 21


  • Alcohol advertising regulations have been  associated with  (Paschall, Grube, & Kypri, 2009):
    • Lower prevalence and frequency of adolescent alcohol consumption
    • Older age of first alcohol use
  • Compared to youth who lived in markets with more alcohol advertising, youths who lived in markets with less alcohol advertising were found to (Snyder, Milici, Slater, Sun, & Strizhakova, 2006):
    • Drink less
    • Increase their drinking more modestly until their early 20s
  • Both partial bans and complete bans on alcohol advertising have been associated with reduced alcohol consumption, including adolescent binge drinking in 20 countries (Saffer & Dave, 2002; Saffer & Dave, 2006).  
  • States that prohibit alcohol advertising targeting minors have fewer youth alcohol-related, single-vehicle, driver traffic fatalities compared to states without this law (Smith & Geller, 2009).
  • However, a cross national study demonstrated alcohol advertising bans had no effect on alcohol consumption (Nelson, 2010).


Alcohol Advertising on Billboards

Alcohol Marketing and Advertising: A Report to Congress

Collaborative Research and Action to Control the Geographic Placement of Outdoor Advertising of Alcohol and Tobacco Products in Chicago

Model Statutory Language Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Sponsorship in State Publications and on Property Owned, Leased, or Operated by the State

Out of Home Advertising Association of America, Code of Industry Principles

State Alcohol Advertising Laws: Current Status and Model Policies

State Laws to Reduce the Impact of Alcohol Marketing on Youth: Current Status and Model Policies


Athena Forum: Excellence in Prevention


Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. (2003, April 10). State alcohol advertising laws: Current status and model policies. Retrieved from

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. (2012, May 1). State laws to reduce the impact of alcohol marketing on youth: Current status and model policies. Retrieved from

Gabriel, R., Becker, L., Leahy, S. K., Landy, A. L., Metzger, J., Orwin, R., . . . Stein-Seroussi, A. (2008, April 30). Assessing the fidelity of implementation of the Strategic Prevention Framework in SPF SIG-funded communities: User’s guide and fidelity assessment rubrics (version 2).

Hackbarth, D. P., Schnopp-Wyatt, D., Katz, D., Williams, J., Silvestri, B., & Pfleger, M. (2001). Collaborative research and action to control the geographic placement of outdoor advertising of alcohol products in Chicago. Public Health Reports, 116(6), 558–567.

Hackbarth, D. P., Silvestri, B., & Casper, W. (1995). Tobacco and alcohol billboards in 50 Chicago neighborhoods: Market segmentation to sell dangerous products to the poor. Journal of Public Health Policy, 16(2), 213–30.

Nelson, J. P. (2010). Alcohol advertising bans, consumption and control policies in seventeen OECD countries, 1975–2000. Applied Economics, 42(7), 803–823.

Paschall, M. J., Grube, J. W., & Kypri, K. (2009). Alcohol control policies and alcohol consumption by youth: A multi-national study. Addiction, 104(11), 1849–1855.

Saffer, H., & Dave, D. (2002). Alcohol consumption and alcohol advertising bans. Applied Economics, 34(11), 1325–1334.

Saffer, H., & Dave, D. (2006). Alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption by adolescents. Health Economics, 15(6), 617–637.

Scenic America. (n.d.). Alcohol advertising on billboards. Retrieved from

Sharp, W. (1992). Mad at the ads! A citizen's guide to challenging alcohol advertising practices. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Smith, R. C., & Geller, S. E. (2009). Marketing and alcohol-related traffic fatalities: Impact of alcohol advertising targeting minors. Journal of Safety Research, 40(5), 359–364.

Snyder, L. B., Milici, F. F., Slater, M., Sun, H., & Strizhakova, Y. (2006). Effects of alcohol advertising exposure on drinking among youth. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 160(1), 18–24.

Weitzman, E. R., Nelson, T. F., Lee, H., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree” program. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3), 187–196.