Reducing Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising

The causal relationship between the alcohol advertising youth see and underage drinking is well documented. Multiple studies have drawn this conclusion while efforts to measure the impact of specific types of alcohol advertising on youth are ongoing.

Much of the alcohol advertising seen by youth is within community. Each year the Wisconsin Department of Health Services conducts the Wisconsin Retail Assessment Project (WRAP), surveying the availability and advertising for tobacco, alcohol and food products in Wisconsin. The 2019 assessment found that 76% of the retailers surveyed had alcohol products or alcohol advertising 36 inches or less from the door, a small child's eye level.

Recent Reports

The county summaries can help identify specific issues in your area. The number of retailers surveyed in each county varies, you may find it more useful to use the statewide summary and conduct an environmental scan of exterior alcohol advertising in your local off-premises retailers for a complete estimate.

Consider the following as you review the county reports:

  • Outdoor advertising such as billboards, advertising in windows and outside retailers is often regulated by a municipal sign code. Many municipalities have sign codes regulating the locations, size and length of time advertising may appear outside a retailer.
  • Some community groups, with both youth and adults, conduct a survey of the alcohol advertising at local Off-Premises (Class A) retailers. This presentation, Conducting a Scan of Alcohol Signage at Class A Retailers (PDF), guides you step by step through planning, conducting and analyzing local alcohol advertsing.
  • Bollard, low height advertising, is prevalent in Wisconsin, although many municipalities limit it. View examples and more information about bollard advertising here (PDF).

Reducing Youth Access to Alcohol

What do we mean when we talk about the “social host” in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the term “social host” describes an adult (age 18 or older) who allows or fails to take action to prevent underage drinking in location they own, rent occupy and control. The term “social host” is generic and has different meaning in different states and in context, what you read or hear about other states may not apply in Wisconsin.

What do youth need to drink illegally?

Alcohol and a place to drink it. Remove either or both, and you prevent underage drinking. Wisconsin's social host law (PDF)reduces youth access to alcohol by making it illegal to provide a location for underage drinking. Alcohol: It has been illegal to Purchase, Pour or Provide Alcohol to any underage individual except your offspring or spouse for years.

Where do youth get alcohol? Most alcohol consumed illegally by youth is:

  • Legally purchased and pilfered or
  • Legally purchased and provided to youth or
  • Illegally purchased

Wisconsin, like many states, allows parents to provide alcohol to their own offspring under range of different circumstances. Most states allow a parent to serve their child alcohol in their home, fewer states allow a parent to provide alcohol to their child outside their home. Social host laws and ordinances apply to youth other than your underage offspring or spouse.

Where do youth drink?

Wisconsin law enforcement agencies report underage drinking parties on private property, most frequently homes and apartments. In warmer weather, outbuilding, and even docks serve as party sites. Sometimes individuals rent hotel rooms for the express purpose of keeping underage drinking put of their home.

Adults who own or control and occupy property may not allow underage drinking and are expected to take steps to prevent underage drinking on their property.

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