You cannot legally purchase or drink alcohol in the United States if you're under the age of 21. Yet, youth between the ages of 12 to 20 were more likely to see ads for alcoholic beverages in magazines last year than adults, according to a study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University.

More than half of the money spent on alcohol magazine advertising was in 24 magazines with youth audiences -- such as Rolling Stone, Allure, Glamour, In Style and Sports Illustrated.

With those findings, one has to wonder if the Federal Trade Commission is asleep at the wheel in protecting children from overexposure to alcohol ads.

Representatives from the alcohol industry say they have a voluntary set of FTC guidelines they adhere to in their advertising practices. It's pretty obvious, however, based on the study of 2001, that the alcohol industry polices itself poorly.

We're left to draw one of two conclusions:

A) The companies don't realize they are making alcohol attractive to minors with their choices of ad placement. We find this a little hard to believe because advertising and market have become almost a science.

B) The companies are making a conscious effort to make their product appealing to young people, thereby training a new generation of drinkers.

(And by the way, what does it say about drinking and driving in America that beer and wine ads are staples in Motor Trend and Car and Driver? Do you really want people making mental connections between automobiles and beer?)

If youth 12 to 20 could handle alcohol responsibly, the law would reflect it. They can't -- and shouldn't be targeted by alcohol companies.

Some might say that younger readers could just ignore beer and wine ads.

Of course, if ignoring the material was that easy, it would make advertising pointless.

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