PoliticsSkepticism

The Real Solution to Teen Drinking

At my school students are required to take a trimester long health class once in their high school career. While I was taking this course last year I had the opportunity to earn extra credit by viewing a short film after school presented by the Teens Against Alcohol and Drugs club (TAAD). Being the overachieving student that I am I jumped at this chance for extra credit.

The film itself was about how alcohol companies are targeting teens by putting ads in the magazines they read and the TV shows they watch. I don’t doubt that alcohol companies would try to target teens. But I felt the video was being overly dramatic. All advertising is targeted to the people they think is most likely to buy and, in some cases, develop a dependence on their product. An alcohol company targeting teens is more sinister that a cereal company targeting children. However they didn’t need to make the alcohol companies seem like the Antichrist.

After the movie I started talking with some of the adults that ran TAAD. They were thrilled I was interested in the issue and tried to get me enlisted into the ranks of the club. They enthusiastically told me they were taking a trip to the capital city to talk to the state’s governor about how alcoholic drinks are just sitting out in grocery stores. They wanted alcoholic drinks to be put in a back room that only costumers who are above the legal drinking age can enter.

The problem with this idea is if someone wants to buy alcohol they are already carded at the cash register. The only loopholes in this system are the hand full of adults who are willing to buy children drinks or are willing to share their drinks with children. Putting alcohol into a smoky back room will not solve neither of these problems. What it will do is add the taboo of alcohol.

Picture two teens in a grocery store. They are starring in awe at small doorway with a bead curtain. A store employee is carding the shady adults in trench coats a wide rimed hats that enter. A thin mist is coming from under the curtain and ruckus laughter is just barley audible. One teen whispers to the other, “What’s in there?”

The second teen looks around before answering, “That’s where they keep the alcohol.”

“Whoa,”  the first teen breaths.

Ultimately, the reason I never joined TAAD was because I don’t believe the solution to teen drinking is to hike up the drinking age and put alcoholic drinks out of sight. The core issue here, in my opinion, is not the availability of alcohol but the culture. Big Tvs, big houses, fast cars, jumbo popcorn and billion dollar jets. We live in a culture of excess and it’s making us sick, destroying the economy and destroying the environment we depend on for survival. We equate how much freedom we have with how much stuff we can buy. It’s not surprising that this culture has effected the way we drink.

On TV and movies characters usually don’t drink at all or drink so much they babble incoherently, fall over comically or pass out. Youth are lead to think the only way to drink is to get puking drunk. Organizations like TAAD reinforce this notion by implying that merely seeing bottles of alcohol will turn a well behaved, god-fearing, youth into a raving drunkard.

My parents have been a very good example to me of how to properly drink. On the rare occasion when they do drink they’ll have half a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner or a beer on Christmas. They taught me a drink is something you have in moderation once maybe twice a year. That is the message we need to send to the youth, myself being one of them. Not this, “If you have one drop pretty soon you’ll be drinking the whole bottle,” nonsense.

It is possible to drink in moderation. Seeing alcoholic drinks in the grocery store is not a slippery slope to becoming an alcoholic. There are better ways to fight teen alcohol and drug abuse in the short term. Build a community center, create after school programs, increase education or just talk to your own child. The solution is in education about alcohol not ignorance of it.

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Lyra Lynx

Lyra Lynx

6 Comments

  1. Jenny
    July 30, 2010 at 8:24 am —

    Interesting post 🙂 The situation is similar where I live and I agree with you about culture, not alcohol itself, being the culprit. I find it weird when people take pride in binge-drinking to the point of being gross and embarrassing themselves. Personally, I’m quite fond of my inhibitions. 🙂

    A recent tv ad campaign here had the slogan ‘It’s not the drinking. It’s how we’re drinking,’ (video here if you’re curious) which I think is pretty on to it.

  2. July 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm —

    I agree with the premise — I abhor overstated prude warnings.

    But I think we need to loosen even your definition of what “proper drinking is.” One beer a year and half a glass of wine per year is not “moderate drinking,” that’s essentially not drinking at all. Moderate drinking is several drinks per week. And as continually noted by medical studies since many years ago, moderate drinking is healthy for you — as much as 2-3 drinks PER DAY can lower disease and sickness by considerable margins.

    Of course, I’m not saying that everyone should up their drinking to that level. I’m saying that such an amount of drinking should be made acceptable, an unquestionable act of good health. (Family was always shocked when I told them I adopted such moderate drinking in college — literally, 2-3 drinks per day for a good 75% of my time there, at least once I turned 21. They thought this was alcoholism!)

    But anyways, the whole premise of TAAD is exactly as you dissected it: Misguided. Well played.

  3. Lyra Lynx
    July 31, 2010 at 4:01 pm —

    I have heard that drinking a small amount of wine each day can be beneficial. Not for the alcohol content but for the berries and fruit. I have never heard that having two or three drinks lowers disease. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

    Also, I didn’t mean that one or two drinks per year is the max you can drink to not be binge drinking in my book. That’s just how much my parents drink. My point was not how often they drink but the fact that they’ll have one beer and be thoroughly satisfied. I defiantly don’t think that’s proper and everyone who drinks more is bad.

    Also, Jenny, it’s awesome that your country has that ad campaign. It seems more sophisticated than my country’s current, “drinking bad!” campaign. Someone should make an ad like the one you linked to for Americans. (hint, hint)

  4. August 1, 2010 at 1:24 am —

    My parents would let me drink a sip at some festive days like new years. So in a way, for my family, alcohol is not taboo, but it is also emphasized that moderation is important. Although when I tasted a sip when I was early teen, I hated alcohol for its bitterness, and I still do. Beer is the worst thing ever, blergh! Maybe if you try it early on, you are more likely to hate it later on. 😉

  5. Mike C.
    August 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm —

    Interesting commentary. I would wager a guess that displaying alcohol in a mysterious manner would only make it more appealing to the underage set. Besides, why should anyone of drinking age or over have to enter a super secret chamber to pick up a six pack?

  6. David Harmon
    August 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm —

    I firmly agree — growing up Jewish, I was exposed early to light drinking — the half-joke in my family was that when company came over, Mom had to wipe the dust off the bottles. But there was always some alcohol at holiday dinners, and when I was 12 I decided to get literal about the “four glasses of wine” at Passover. Mom cut me off after the second, because I was getting obnoxious, but I still woke up on Grandpa’s couch… and learned that I was too big for my family members to carry home! In the 32 years since then, I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve gotten falling-down drunk, and never out of crawling range from my own bed!

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