Alcohol and Advertising: Selling Alcoholism
Dr. Jaynee Cadrez
More and more, professional sports franchises are creating "family sections" within the seating charts of their arenas and stadiums. The idea is that no one will be allowed to consume alcohol within these sections, thus negating any exposure children in the seats will have to alcohol consumption. The drunken "right field rowdies" will stay in right field, safely removed from young children there to watch the game with their parents.
In theory, this is a wonderful plan and a great way to encourage family outings to professional sporting activities. No longer do parents have to worry that their young children will be exposed to profanity and obscene gestures from inebriated neighboring fans. Sports franchises are attempting to aid parents in reducing the contact children have with alcohol at these events. They recognize that children are exposed to an alarming rate of ever-expanding media messages centered on alcohol and the messages are dangerous.
However, in practice, simply because children are not exposed to the actual consumption of alcohol does not mean that they are not exposed to alcohol-related messaging and potential alcoholism. Case in point: while the other fans in the family sections are not actively drinking, there are still countless billboards in the stadium touting various brands of beer. Even within the confines of home, children watching sporting events are bombarded with commercials selling beer during every break in the action. Just because mom and dad may not be drinking in front of their child there is no guarantee that they are not rapidly learning to associate intoxication with fun and that to celebrate it's accepted, if not required, to consume alcohol.
A study by Georgetown University concluded that young people are 170 times more likely to see an advertisement promoting alcohol than a message discouraging drunk driving. According to the same study, children are 93 times more likely to see such ads than ads stressing the importance of abstinence. The alcohol industry spends over $800 million annually to promote their beverages - both in your home, at the ballpark and on the roadways to and from each.
Alcohol abuse is the leading drug abused among America's youth, far and away. Youth alcohol-related deaths are on the rise, despite a decline in the number of young people reported to be drinking. Alcohol is not only closely linked to automobile accidents among young people, but also to suicides and homicides
Sadly, alcoholism is glamorized in American culture. It is seen as a social lubricant, or as a method for simply taking the edge off of a difficult week. Children absorb this from an astoundingly early age. No, alcohol-related ads are not run during children's programming. But the billboards are there on the way to school. The signs and sponsorships hang in the basketball arena. Even a 5-year old can probably sing you the jingle for your favorite beer, or at the very least quote the newest catch-phrase popularized by the latest Super Bowl ad. Alcoholism runs in families so we need to be aware of the subtle messages.
There is no shortage of pressure to drink in a person's life - be it from friends, family, role models or the media. Before too long, a young person has heard nothing else and knows no different. The message is alcohol gives you confidence, makes you look cool and gets you the pretty girls. They are spoon-fed this from the media as soon as they are old enough to hear it with little to contradict the message and show the real damaged caused by alcoholism.
At some point, parents must choose to run interference and intercept these messages. But even parents are powerless against corporate juggernauts that power our television programming, sporting events and rock concerts. The messages need to start at home and that is why Cirque Lodge offers a family week where alcoholism can be addressed in a safe environment. We offer professional baby sitting services to accommodate most situation. A lot of healing takes place in the family in a short time and the experience can be life altering for everyone.
There is no way to completely shield your children, spouse or friends who may be susceptible to these messages. Our world is inundated with calls to drink and be a part of the crowd. The key is learning to filter them - to understand what their real motivation is. Only then are we left with the ability to empower ourselves, address alcoholism and make healthy decisions regarding ourselves and our families.