Alcohol ads on social media like Facebook can boost young adults' desire to drink if the ads contain pro-drinking comments from users, according to a research.
The study showed that social media looking at alcohol ads are also more likely to "Like" or "Share" an ad when they have pro-drinking comments.
These pro-drinking comments combined with high user involvement increased the desire to drink 3.5 times, especially those with alcohol problems.
"Heavy alcohol users and those who are addicted to alcohol can be most susceptible to the potential effects of pro-drinking comments," said researchers led by Jonathan Noel, from the University of Connecticut.
The ads, along with positive comments about drinking, can act as alcohol devices "and an increased desire to drink after exposure to alcohol devices can predict relapse after treatment for alcoholism."
With hundreds of corporate sponsored alcohol ads on social media (with millions of Likes and Shares), plus million impressions of alcohol ads on YouTube, alcohol companies have expanded platforms to reach young consumers.
The study suggests that industry must improve the voluntary self-regulatory system that governs its advertising, possibly by restricting or prohibiting comments about social media advertising.
The study, as evidenced by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, involved 120 young adults aged 21-24, living in the United States, who looked at four beer advertisements published on Facebook.
The lowest desire to drink was found after the participants were exposed to ads with anti-drinking comments plus a high "user engagement" (ie, Likes / Shares / Comments).
In addition, compared to ads with anti-drink comments, ads with pro-drinking comments left participants more than twice as likely to like or share the ad.
"There is more information about social media than just a post or message. We are exposed to how other users respond to a post, and that's the answers that can affect your willingness to drink," said Noel.
(With entries from agencies.)