Alcohol, Gambling, And Drug Ad Ban On Youtube

On June 14th, 2021, Youtube announced a ban on alcohol, gambling, or prescription drug-related ads on its homepage. Specifically, the platform banned controversial ads from appearing on its highly visible rectangle across the top of the homepage, also known as a masthead. The shift follows a chain of changes Google (its parent company) is making due to public scrutiny.

Youtube, Google, And Toxic Marketing

Over the past few years, Alphabet Inc. has received backlash for exposing its billions of users to harmful advertisements while making a profit. In 2011, the tech giant was forced to pay $500 million in a settlement by the U.S. Federal Drug Agency for selling online ads to Canadian pharmacies targeting Americans. For nearly a decade, dozens of online pharmacies in Canada sold illegal prescriptions through advertisements on Google.

During the preceding, prosecutors discovered that Alphabet Inc. knew of the illegal advertisements created by the Canadian dispensaries. According to investigators, drugstores were preying on vulnerable consumers, like addicts, through, “online consultation rather than a prescription.” The companies then charged a premium for the online meeting because they knew, “individuals seeking to obtain prescription drugs without a valid prescription were willing to pay higher prices.” All the while, according to critics, Google knew about the toxic advertising strategies.

The Public’s Outrage On Advertisements 

Google is not the first site to be flagged for harmful advertising practices. Just recently, after a public media outrage, TikTok banned content that promotes drug abuse and eating disorders. Still, sites like Facebook continue making a hefty profit by allowing pharmaceutical companies and data brokerage firms to target vulnerable clients. Which begs the question, how invasive and dangerous are these media advertising policies? How do they affect those susceptible to addiction?

Advertising And Addiction

Digital advertising has surpassed traditional marketing. Thanks to data-tracking software, companies can now target individuals based on their ethnicity, disabilities, sexual orientation, and more. The plethora of data gives these invasive advertisers the power to be even more persuasive than ever before. According to privacy activists and browser-makers, companies that perpetuate eating disorders or create prescription drugs can even target people battling trauma, drug abuse, and eating disorders.

Not only can these marketers efficiently mark people susceptible to addiction, but they can also mislead them to purchase their products. According to a research study, only 26% of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) describe the risk factors associated with their drugs, and only 25% mentioned its prevalence. DTCPA typically misinforms consumers by omitting critical information like the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. 

Another concerning problem is the trust placed on these advertisers by consumers. Nearly 50% of people believe that the government approves all ads broadcasted on TV or online. Unfortunately, direct to consumer ads (DTC) are loosely regulated. Though claims in advertisements must be truthful under the law, many marketers find advantageous loopholes to avoid omitting less than glamorous truths about their products. Once live, DTC ads are dangerously trusted and effective. On average, 43% of viewers believe that medications must be entirely safe to be advertised.

Raising Awareness

Advertisements can have adverse effects on vulnerable populations like those prone to addiction. The unwarranted trust placed on marketers is a powerful tool capable of triggering or worsening substance use disorders. Historically drug-producing companies put profits over public safety. For example, Purdue Pharma is under federal investigation for instigating the United States Opioid epidemic. To protect vulnerable populations, lawmakers need to regulate all broadcasted ads thoroughly. In the meantime, we must all be vigilant and raise the public’s awareness of the dangers advertising has on those battling addiction. For more information on substance use, addiction, and treatment, contact a treatment provider today.

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Suzette Gomez

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  • Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.

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