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.