The Medias Effects on Underage Drinking
The use of alcohol is a major aspect of our society. It is used in religious ceremonies, during socialization, and its presence is seen everywhere. Second only to caffeine, more people drink alcohol than any other substance. It appears in many forms such as beer, wine, and hard liquor. It has been praised, denounced, accepted, and outlawed in the past century alone.
The effects of alcohol are numerous. From drunk driving accidents to fetal alcohol syndrome, from liver disease to the increased chance of sexually transmitted disease, alcohols reach is widespread. Alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually, making it the third leading cause of preventable mortality in the United States (McGinnis, p. 2208). As well, 41% of all traffic fatalities, the leading cause of accidental death, are alcohol-related (NHTSA, sec 4. p.
Underage drinking is a major problem in our society. Thirty-four percent of all high school seniors have had a drink in the past month (Johnston, p. ). As well, 1.2 million of these seniors are binge drinkers.
(CASA, 1997). In eight grade, 1 million students admit they have been drunk (CASA, 1997). In 1996, nine million drinkers were under the age of twenty-one, and that number has increased since.
Approximately two thirds of teenagers who drink can purchase their own beverages (HHS, p. 1). Even worse, people who begin drinking before age fifteen quadruple their chances of developing alcoholic tendencies (NIAAA, P.
1). Knowing this, the fact that 38.1% of children age fourteen have had a drink is quite disturbing.
Everyone admits that it is a problem, and how widespread and dangerous it is, but no one really tackles the problem at hand. They blame it on parents, bad teaching, and more commonly peer pressure. Something had to first influence their peers to influence them.
The excuse that people are more like to drink if their parents do is also used, but what influences their parents to drink? The question people need to ask themselves is what exactly has influenced our society into widely accepting the use of alcohol?
If someone asked you exactly what Tony the Tiger says when he appears in television commercials, how long would you need to think about it? If that same person were to ask you what those talking frogs say on television, how long would it take you to remember that? The majority of children nine years old to eleven years old can respond to the latter much faster than the first (Leiber, p. 1).
In a world where children are able to identify more brands of beer than American Presidents (Hopkins, P. 25), there is a clear and definite problem. The root of this problem is the media. The increase in underage alcohol consumption is a direct and indirect result of the medias influence on them.
A very large chunk of a television program is its commercials. They praise this soft drink because its taste is richer than the other brand, these potato chips because they are not as greasy and have less fat than that other brand and these khakis because, hey, people can swing dance in them.
The commercials are colorful and loud, they feature the “beautiful people”; super models, Hollywood stars, sports stars, and rock stars that society has come to look up to for advice. We have talking frogs and celebrities, comedians and rock music all imploring us to give up our products and try something new and exciting.
In the Superbowl, for example, the commercials play as important a role as the game itself. Just ask someone what the score was, and then ask him or her what their favorite commercial was.
From Pringles to the Gap, companies are spending millions of dollars so that we will buy their products. The bottom line is that advertisements sell products.
This is no different for alcohol either. The beer brewing industry spends six hundred million dollars a year on television and radio advertisements (Hopkins, P. 24). As well, they spend ninety million dollars a year on print advertisements (Wall Street Journal, 1996).
Aside from that, they get the less obvious kind of advertisements. When you are watching a movie, you see people drinking a certain soda, .