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Advertising has been identified as one of the factors that increase the likelihood of alcoholic beverage consumption especially among the youth (Alcohol Concern, 2013). Through the use of advertising execution techniques such as humour, celebrity endorsement and music, advertisers are able to embed images that resonate with vulnerable youths. In spite of the documented social and health repercussions of alcohol consumption and little knowledge of warning sign among adults, literature still show that the relationship between advertising warning signs and alcohol consumption is an understudied area. The study examined the attitude of Nigerian university undergraduates to the 18+ warning sign in alcoholic beverage advertisements.


The study adopted the survey research design. The target population of the study was 195,000 undergraduates from nine selected universities in South-West, Nigeria. Multi-stage sampling technique was used in the selection process. Purposive sampling was used to select three states (Lagos, Ogun and Oyo), based on concentration of universities in the states. The universities in the selected states were stratified into Federal, State and Private. Three universities were purposively selected from each state (one from each stratum). Gay, Geoffrey and Peter’s formula was adopted to draw the sample size of 1,950 respondents who were proportionately distributed to the nine selected universities. A validated questionnaire was used as the instrument. The Cronbach’s Alpha coefficients for the constructs ranged from 0.735 to 0.945. Response rate was 95.7%. Data were analyzed using correlation and regression analyses.


The findings revealed that there was significant relationship between students’ awareness of the 18+ warning sign and their attitudes towards consumption (r=0.242; p<0.05). There was significant positive relationship between students’ recognition of the 18+ warning sign and attitudes towards consumption (r=0.485; p<0.05). There was also a significant positive relationship between students’ perception of the credibility of the 18+ warning sign and attitudes towards consumption (r=0.664; p<0.05). It was found that the 18+ sign significantly influenced attitudes of the underage towards consumption (R2=0.494; p<0.05). Demographic variables significantly influenced the attitudes of undergraduates towards the 18+ warning sign (R2=0.017; p<0.05).


The study concluded that the 18+ warning sign in alcoholic beverage advertisements discouraged undergraduates’ consumption of alcoholic beverages. The study recommended that advertisers, as sponsors of the promotional messages that promote alcohol consumption, should intensify the use of the 18+ warning sign and other warning labels for the purpose of being socially responsible. Also advertising relevant agencies in line with existing regulations should intensify efforts at monitoring the content of advertisements to ensure compliance with set standards.


Keywords: Alcohol advertising, Awareness, Perception, Alcohol consumption, Alcoholic             beverage



1.1       Background to the Study

Alcohol is perhaps the most commonly used drug among adolescents. It is a ubiquitous toxin and the excess consumption of it can harm almost any organ or system of the body (Anderson, 2007). Alcohol consumption carries a risk of adverse health and social consequences as a result of drunkenness; it is responsible for a range of social, health and economic harms which tend to be most pronounced among the youths (Australian Medical Association, 2012). The harms caused by excessive alcohol consumption as highlighted by Chikere and Mayowa (2011) includes worldwide disease of esophageal cancer, liver cancer, homicide, epilepsy, cirrhosis of the liver and so on.

Alcohol consumption in the past decades was basically used at ceremonies for entertainment, but in Nigeria today, the quantity and reason for consumption are rapidly changing (Chikere & Mayowa, 2011). The new trend of alcohol consumption among young people in Nigeria today contributes to Nigeria’s ranking among thirty countries with highest per capita consumption of alcohol globally (World Health Organization, 2004). The quantity of consumption by the Nigerian youths is what seem to result in an increased burden of alcohol-related problems such as addiction, poor academic performance, risky driving, health issues, to mention a few (Dumbili, 2013). Despite the effort to prevent underage alcohol consumption, it is still a persistent public health problem (Komro & Toomey, 2002).

The role of advertising as a possible stimulus to alcohol consumption and as a contributor to the abuse of alcohol has in recent years been controverted because advertising has been associated with underage purchase and consumption of alcohol (Nelson, 2001). Arens (2006) defined advertising as “a structured and composed non-personal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products (good, services and ideas) by identified sponsors, through various media” (p. 7). Advertising creates the impression that, for a relatively small expenditure, young people can psychologically connect to positive fantasy places, lifestyle and personality characteristics it portrays. Advertising is one potential source of information for young people about the cost of alcohol and its benefits and information supplied by advertising can result in more positive expectancies about alcohol, which can change actual or intended consumption behavior (Saffer, 2002).

The effect of alcohol advertising can be found in the effect of alcohol consumption behavior of adolescents. Alcohol advertisements become attractive to young people in early adolescence, between the ages of ten (10) and fourteen (14). However, exposure to alcohol advertising increases the likelihood that an adolescent will start consuming alcohol and if such adolescent has already been consuming alcohol, there are chances that consumption will increase (Bouwmeester, n.d; Jones & Gordon, 2013). Alcohol advertisements are seen by youths on different communication media, but television advertising seems to be the most powerful means of marketing alcohol because children and youths spend more time watching television than using any other type of media. (Australian Medical Association, 2012). Radio advertising and product placement in television programmeming provide additional avenues for promoting alcoholic beverages (Australian Medical Association, 2012). Children have been found to identify alcohol advertisements as the ones they like most among the advertisements to which they have been exposed, and their liking of alcohol advertisements has been linked to alcohol consumption among the youth (Gunter, Hansen and Touri, 2008). This was further re-affirmed in the statement of Anderson (2007) which states thus:

The adolescent brain undergoes major development, which makes adolescents more vulnerable to impulsivity with greater sensitivity to pleasure and reward. Young people who already have problems related to alcohol are likely to be particularly vulnerable to alcohol advertising, with the vulnerability increasing with increasing alcohol consumption. Alcohol advertising manipulates adolescents’ vulnerability by shaping their attitude, perceptions and particularly expectances about alcohol use, which then influence youth decisions to drink. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the enormous exposure to commercial communications, not only through traditional media, which are highly targeted to young people (p. 10).

Young people are at risk of alcohol related harm as a result of their body size and lack of experience with alcohol. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed during adolescence, the greater the risk as a young adult (Anderson, 2007). Majority of the advertisements of alcohol on television, newspapers and magazines and even on billboards have the 18+ sign and this implies that alcohol consumption is for people of eighteen (18) years and above. There are empirical evidences that there is a relationship between alcohol advertisements and positive attitude towards alcohol among young people, based on the appealing nature of alcohol advertisements to them. Saffer (2002) concludes that alcohol advertising affects knowledge, attitude and intentions to drink which is believed to affect drinking and there is therefore, a conclusion that there is positive link between alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption.

Grube (2004) suggests that a large number of alcohol advertisements link drinking with valued personal attributes such as elegance, sociability, physical attractiveness and also with desirable outcomes which includes success, pleasure, relaxation, romance and adventure. Young people find alcohol advertisements with these attributes appealing and they are attracted to them. Due to the appeals, the content of advertisements is related to expectancies about the use of alcohol among the young ones. There is however, considerable evidence that some particular alcohol brands that appeal to the young ones are created and targeted at young people (Anderson, 2007). There is also evidence that cultural myths and symbols used in alcohol advertisements have powerful meanings for college students (Anderson, 2007). There are some elements that youths are attracted to, they are particularly drawn to elements of music, story, characters and humour (Anderson, 2007). 

Varied responses can be exhibited by young people to alcohol advertising and these responses perhaps include awareness, perception, recognition and restraint. Attitude towards advertisements and perceptions of their messages can sometimes represent important variables which can mediate post-exposure influence of advertisements. Alcohol advertisements and the brands they promote may be noticed and recognized by young adults even long before they start drinking alcoholic beverages (Gunter et al., 2008). There is a concern that exposure of young people to alcohol advertisements could create favourable dispositions towards drinking and could also play a part in triggering early onset of alcohol consumption. There is however, a relationship between alcohol advertising and the onset or initiation of alcohol consumption among young adults. Alcohol advertising shapes the attitude, perceptions and expectancies around alcohol use which results in youth decisions to drink (Gunter et al., 2008; Chen, Grube Bersamin, Waiters & Keefe, 2005).

In Nigeria, advertising practice is guided by the statutory regulating body known as Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON). The provisions in the advertising code of ethics cover electronic, print, outdoor media and even cinemas / viewing centers. This code of conduct is provided under Article 32-37 of the 5th code of the advertising practice. According to these articles, advertising of alcoholic beverages shall not be exposed in children’s religious and sport programmes, children, sportsmen / women shall not be used as models, it shall not employ religious or medical suggestions or connotations, shall not be sited within a radius of 200 metres from the nearest perimeter fence of any place of worship, hospitals, schools or motor parks (APCON, 2012).

Despite the efforts of APCON to regulate drinking among the youths and the underage, alcohol advertisements still seem to be appealing to the youths and even to be targeted at them. High levels of brand recognition among the youths and the underage illustrates the weakness of this current regulation because most of these young ones are exposed to alcohol advertising on the internet which could bring about difficulty in preventing underage exposure to alcohol advertising (Alcohol Concern, 2013). With the rate at which things are going which might later result in the total ban of alcohol advertising, alcohol industries, came up with an industry-based regulation which is the 18+ sign, in order to prevent underage drinking. The 18+ sign, implies that alcohol consumption is for people that are eighteen (18) years and above. In the light of this, this study seeks to investigate the attitude of university undergraduates in Southwestern Nigeria to the 18+ sign in alcoholic beverage advertisements.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Despite regulations to protect the youth and underage from alcohol advertising, they are still regularly exposed to high level of alcohol advertising, young people are exposed to alcohol advertisements on television, radio, internet and in print media, whether they are targeted by advertisers or not (Smith and Foxcroft, 2009). The use of alcohol among the youths and the underage has been a major public health concern because drinking among these youths can result in a number of negative consequences such as alcohol addiction, accidents, poor academic performance, risky sex, injuries and even untimely death. It is has been observed that the earlier the age young people start to drink and the more they drink at a young age, the more they are likely to become addict and suffer alcohol related harm (Anderson, 2007).

Despite the fact that advertisements of alcoholic beverages on television, print media and even on billboards carry the 18+ sign which is supposed to serve as a deterrent to the underage, most of these young adults do not seem to be aware of the sign. Many young people start to drink at an earlier (Australian Medical Association, 2012). Another concern over alcohol advertising is the fact that advertising has frequently associated alcohol consumption with themes such as fun, friendship and humour. Much of these alcohol advertising goes beyond describing the specific qualities of the alcoholic beverage to creating a glamorous and pleasurable image that may be attractive and appealing to youths, even the underage. The university undergraduates in Nigeria today are perhaps dominated by the young adults and adolescents who should be educated on the adverse effect of alcohol consumption on health and academic performance. The attitude of these university undergraduates to the 18+ sign in these alcoholic beverages (Trophy, 33 larger beer, Golgberg, Stout, Heinekens and so on) advertisements were what constituted the focus of this study.

1.3       Objective of the Study

            The main objective of this study is to ascertain the attitude of university undergraduates to the 18+ warning sign in alcoholic beverage advertisements. The specific objectives are to:

1.                  determine the relationship between awareness of the 18+ warning sign and the attitude of university undergraduates towards alcoholic beverage consumption;

2.                  analyze the relationship between the recognition of the 18+ warning sign and the attitude of university undergraduates towards alcoholic beverage consumption;

3.                  determine the relationship between the perception of the credibility of the 18+ warning sign and the attitude of university undergraduates towards alcoholic beverage consumption;

4.                  examine the influence of the 18+ warning sign on alcohol beverage consumption among underage university undergraduates and

5.                  determine the influence of demographic variables on the attitude of undergraduates towards the 18+ warning sign.

1.4       Research Questions

1.         What is the relationship between awareness of the 18+ warning sign and the attitude of     

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