booze.jpgA group of students studying alcohol advertising in San Francisco have completed a study that confirms what many of them already knew: the city’s low-income youth are bombarded with messages about drinking, often to an illegal extent.

San Francisco Youth Creating Community Change, a citywide coalition of young adults using public health approaches to reduce underage drinking and improve neighborhood safety, surveyed about one-tenth of the city’s off-site alcohol outlets to see if they were in compliance of the state’s “Lee Law.”

The law, named for Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, requires corner stores that serve alcohol to devote no more than one-third of their window space to alcohol advertising.

More than half of the outlets the students surveyed broke that rule, while 27 percent had more than 60 percent of their storefronts covered in alcohol advertising, according to a report released today.

“San Francisco Youth Creating Community Change believes that steps must be taken to address this issue,” the students said in the report.

The young researchers focused on the Mission and Excelsior districts and Bayview-Hunters Point, Tenderloin, Japantown, Portola and South of Market neighborhoods.

They found that alcohol was easily the most dominant product in storefront advertising–it was twice as prevalent as both junk food and tobacco advertising, according to the report.

Advertising for healthy food such as produce comprised just 5 percent of the ads the students encountered.

A spokesman for the Youth Leadership Institute, which staffs the Youth Creating Community Change coalition, said the findings were particularly troubling because many youth rely on the corner stores for snacks, groceries and other household items.

“If they’re getting exposed to the alcohol advertising, it’s going to impact the decisions they make,” spokesman Andre Morand said.

Several studies have linked alcohol advertising and promotion to younger and increased alcohol consumption.

Sixth and seventh graders exposed to high levels of alcohol advertising are 50 percent more likely to drink than children with low exposure to such marketing, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Youth are also 96 times more likely to see an ad promoting alcohol use than an industry ad discouraging underage drinking, according to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

The students presented their findings today to public and elected officials, including city Supervisor Eric Mar.

They hope to reach out to the store owners and work with law enforcement, the business community and residents to reduce the number of ads in the city’s storefronts.

The Youth Creating Community Change coalition is comprised of members of 18 youth-serving organizations in the city, Morand said. It is funded by the San Francisco Department of Public Safety and staffed by the Youth Leadership Institute.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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