W. Todd Abernathy
Humn 502 American Popular Culture
29 July 2013
Alcohol and Teens
Alcohol has been a part of our global society, for better of worse, since the beginning of time. Its early role of alcohol has been for therapeutic, medicinal or religious ceremony. “Why doesn’t Jesus drink alcohol? Because he already got hammered!” This joke serves solely as a respite from a complex and difficult subject in today’s American society, that of Alcohol and Teens. In what ways, does the advertising of alcohol to our adolescent youth correspond in the 21st century? Should youth be encouraged by media to drink alcohol? These issues will be examined in four separate areas; Film, TV advertising, social media and U.S. Law. In regards to the later, United States Law, states the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 in all states, with exceptions in some states permitting younger ages limited consumption. “The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (23 U.S.C. § 158) was passed on July 17, 1984 by the United States Congress as a mechanism for all states would legislate the age of 21 years as a minimum age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages” (1). This law was largely brought about due to disparaging ages state by state, resulting in youth crossing state lines to purchase alcohol. N.M.D.A. of 1984 further went on to define alcoholic beverages by percentage of alcohol; beer, wine and distilled spirits as being in the same category, regardless of alcoholic content. This is an important distinction that will be brought forth later in this paper with television advertising. Originally, the laws regarding alcoholic consumption were derived from the colorful history of Prohibition, repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These laws are governed and enforced under the US Department of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Breaking of these laws vary state by state but could include infraction or a class a misdemeanor, which means that the punishment could be a fine and/or 30 days or less of imprisonment. Penalties increases exponentially when operating a vehicle while under the influence are in play. (2) In summation under age alcohol consumption is prohibited under the US Constitution. So why then do we spend so much money and time marketing alcohol to adolescents? On a more basic level, why should we care. Isn’t drinking a right of passage to adulthood that all youth should experience? What’s so bad about a little drinky poo for our kiddies? Even though our Dads might of giving us our first taste of booze, while slugging a Schlitz Malt Liquor while watching your families alma mater football game, the U.S Surgeon General, stated that Alcohol is the drug of choice among American adolescents, used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. (See graph) Although there has been a significant decline in tobacco and illicit drug use among teens, underage drinking has remained at consistently high levels. Young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol problems later in life than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older. New research indicates that alcohol may harm the developing adolescent brain; still there are approximately 11 million underage drinkers in the United States. So, knowing that alcohol is bad for youth development, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled football game, with Dad, the couch and a cold one. It would be impossible not to attend a Super bowl Party and see millions of dollars being spent on the latest Bud Light commercial or a stunning model sipping on a Captain and Coke. Here’s an example of the context of an TV add shown in 2011, during the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. “The Ad: A friend dog-sits for someone and is invited to drink the Bud Light in the freezer. Cut to a party scene with lots of attractive people being served by...
Cited: Federal Trade Commission, Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry: A Review of Industry Efforts to Avoid Promoting Alcohol to Underage Consumers (Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 1999.
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