"Kids also read these magazines, and if this is truly a public health concern, then we need to find ways to talk about decreasing adolescent exposure to advertising," said one of the researchers, Dr. Craig Garfield of the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill.
The researchers compared 35 magazines and found that for every 1 million more readers ages 12 to 19, a magazine had about 60 percent more beer and distilled liquor ads.
"We're not in any way trying to suggest that they are doing this intentionally. It simply may be worth it for them to look a little more closely at their advertising strategies," said another one of the researchers, Dr. Paul Chung of the medical school at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The study was published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a major trade association, ridiculed the study as "typical of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded advocacy efforts: rife with flagrant technical errors bordering on junk science."
The council said its member companies "are strongly committed to responsible marketing and advertising policies directed to adults."
The researchers said major alcoholic beverage trade associations have codes of conduct pledging to avoid marketing to teens. The researchers said that if self-regulation by the industry is not enough, then maybe the government or an independent auditor needs to monitor the situation.
"We always consider that stuff to be the last resort," Chung said.
The Beer Institute, a trade association for the malt beverage industry, said more regulation will not reduce underage drinking.
"The strongest influences on young people are their parents and their peers," the group said in a statement. "Providing materials to parents - that the beer industry does in abundance - that allows them to talk about drinking with their kids, is the sort of effective solution that this industry's critics should embrace."
By Deanna Bellandi