For teens who are lucky enough to grow up in households where alcohol is not a mainstay, their first influence to drink usually comes from the media. Advertisers spend millions and millions of dollars to woo young drinkers to try their products – as soon as they turn 21. Yeah, right.
Most parents are aware that their children are being swayed by alcohol advertising right before their very eyes. There is no way to get away from it. If you are watching television, ads are aplenty. If you are sitting at a ballgame, there are enormous signs putting the brand names in front of your teen. Alcohol companies sponsor absolutely everything they can to get their name out there, over and over again. If you ask a normal teenager to name six brands of beer, most of them can.
If you are the parent of a minority teenager, the story is even worse. Urban minority teens – especially African-American and Hispanic – are subject to far more alcohol advertising than the average suburban white teen.
By the time teens are 15 years old, more than half of them are drinking fairly regularly. Their parents, however, are living in the clouds. Less than a third of parents believe their kids have even had one drink. Seemingly, advertisers are having more effect and are closer to these teens than their parents are.
My first drinking episode was with my parents, but after that, they had no idea I drank. I was able to hide my excessive drinking for almost a decade even though they should have known. After all, they were drinkers themselves.
As an adult, when I see a Budweiser ad, with a cold glass dripping with ice and the sound of a beer bottle opening and pouring, I get thirsty. And, I know better. Imagine the effect on a young teen. The sound and smell and sight of a beer means good times, friendship, and feeling good about oneself. How can I teen ever combat this type of advertising?
Last weekend I was at a restaurant with a small store and many of the tee-shirt slogans were related to alcohol: “My Indian name is Runs With Beer”. These types of tee-shirts did not exist when I was a kid. Now they’re all over the place. What’s a kid to think?