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Booze brands ‘should restrict social media comments’

The alcoholic drinks industry should restrict or ban comments on social media advertising, academics have argued after discovering pro-drinking comments can increase young adults’ desire to drink.

The study found that pro-drinking comments shared on social media encouraged pro-drinking attitudes

Brands could also consider using the comments sections to promote messages about moderate and responsible drinking, researchers claimed.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, social media users are also more likely to ‘like’ or ‘share’ an advert with pro-drinking comments.

However, researchers found that it wasn’t the number of likes, shares, and comments that appeared to influence the participants, but the type of comments – that is, for or against alcohol.

The study suggested that the industry “needs to do more to improve the voluntary self-regulatory system that governs its advertising, possibly by limiting or banning comments on social media advertising”.

Dr Jonathan Noel, the study’s lead author, said: “There is more information on social media than just a post or a message. We are exposed to how other users respond to a post, and it is those responses that can influence your desire to drink.

“Our findings suggest that comments left by other social media users may either reinforce or negate the message from a post.”

Researchers observed 120 young adults aged 21-24 living in the US as they viewed four online adverts for beer. The researchers chose either pro- or anti-drinking comments to accompany the ads, which also had a varied number of likes, shares and comments.

Participants said they had the lowest desire to drink after viewing ads with anti-drinking comments plus a high user engagement.

Their desire to drink was 3.5 times higher after viewing an ad with pro-drinking comments plus high user engagement. Ads with pro-drinking comments also meant participants were twice as likely to like or share the ad.

According to researchers, those with alcohol problems could be “most susceptible to the potential effects of pro-drinking comments” and could relapse as a result.

In September, 11 leading alcohol companies, including Diageo and Pernod Ricard, partnered with four social media platforms to deliver better safeguarding measures for online alcohol advertising.

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