Alcohol Reports: Project No. P114503 #00061 

Submission Number:
Kathy Getting
Power Up YOUth
Initiative Name:
Alcohol Reports: Project No. P114503
Can we rely on the alcohol industry to police themselves when marketing their products? Can you trust the mouse not to take the cheese when there is no cat around? Creating dividends for stockholders is one of any corporation’s main purposes. Their dividends are closely related to sales of their product. To that end industries seek to create favorable images and associations before their potential customers begin purchasing. We are in a time when some industries are using children as spokespeople to market their cell phones, automobiles and investment firms. This is an attempt to build name recognition in children at a time when first impressions are strongest. It is understandable how the alcohol industry might want to do the same. Some say they are. However, alcohol abuse and addictions have too many negative consequences for individuals and society for our regulators to ignore how the alcohol industry markets their products. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that underage drinking is strongly related to accidental deaths, injuries, sexual assaults, date rape, unplanned pregnancies, and contraction of HIV or STDS. Since 10% of us drink 60% of the alcohol consumed in the US, the alcohol industry profits go up when there are more people abusing alcohol. In a study out of Boston College of more than 4,000 respondents, nearly half of the people who met the criteria for alcohol dependence did so by the age of 21 and two-thirds do so by the age of 25. If young people wait to start dinking until the age of 21, the changes of developing an alcohol dependence goes down to 10%. The alcohol industry must be aware of this dynamic. We have a social obligation to monitor alcohol advertising to protect our young. I recall watching a feature on cable television about the life of a musician on tour. I was heartened by what a great role model he was when he talked about how difficult it was to lead a moral life and be a role model for others. The juxtaposition of his thoughts and the alcohol commercial that followed disturbed my social work heart. The commercial began with no sound, just an image of a large numbers of police dressed in riot gear standing in line on one side of an urban street, all looking in across the street. The next frame was of a large crowd of young people, quiet and tense looking back toward the police off screen. Then the two groups were on the street, inches apart, leaning towards the opposing group, ready to do battle. The mood was abruptly changed by images of the two sides engaging in a pillow fight. Everyone was laughing and having the time of their lives, feathers flying in the air. The camera slowly rose to the skyline where feathers floated through the air under the logo of a liquor company. End of commercial. Message received: “Breaking the laws around drinking is fun and games, the consequences are fluff.” I asked myself who this ad was aimed at and answered, “Youth.” My next rational thought, “The alcohol industry needs to be regulated because self regulation is not working.”