Background: Youth consumption of alcohol is a major public health problem in Taiwan, yet little research has been conducted to examine the potential influence of exposure to alcohol advertising. The present study examined the prospective influence that exposure to alcohol advertising has on the initiation and persistence of youthful drinking in Taiwan. Methods: A total of 2315 students from 26 high schools in Taipei, Taiwan were assessed in the 10th grade with follow-up conducted in the 11th grade. Self-administered questionnaires were collected in 2010 and 2011 to assess the patterns of change in youth alcohol drinking behaviors, media exposure to alcohol, and risk and protective factors. Results: Of the 1712 non-drinking students in the 10th grade, 285 (16.6%) had initiated drinking by the 11th grade. Of the 590 drinkers in the 10th grade, 396 (67.1%) were persistently drinking by the 11th grade. Multivariate analysis results indicated that when other potential confounders were accounted for, greater media exposure to alcohol advertising in the 10th grade was found to be significantly associated with the initiation of alcohol use and when combined with an increase in media exposure from grades 10 to 11, this was significantly associated with the persistence of alcohol use. Conclusion: Exposure to alcohol advertising in the media was associated with both the initiation and the persistence of alcohol use by youth.
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