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Many Parents Have Bought the Alcohol Industry’s Responsibility Message


"When the American Medical Association questioned [parents]... in polls or focus groups, they tended to place responsibility for underage drinking on themselves and other parents. After decades of listening to industry "responsibility" ads, they often blame underage drinking on bad parenting.


In truth, a sizable number of children and adolescents who drink are living in the homes of very good parents. You see, even when parents talk to their children repeatedly about alcohol, and many parents do, the fact is this: children are living in an environment where alcohol is everywhere; where alcohol advertisements and products are designed to appeal to an ever-younger audience; and where alcohol is cheap and accessible. The problem is compounded by the facts that most kids don’t get the kind of comprehensive health education they need to get the facts. Instead, they see ads where drinking is portrayed as adult, glamorous and sexy. They see this kind of advertising every day on billboards and buses. They watch beer ads on television and thumb through liquor ads in magazines. Advertising is like water; it seeps in gradually, through the cracks you can’t see. It slips inside our kids’ consciousness and that of their peers. Given that one of the most critical factors for at-risk behavior in a child is the behavior of his or her friends, this is a danger we can’t afford to ignore.


The problem goes beyond just advertising to the products themselves. Brewers produce so-called "alcopops" with a sweet, fruity taste specifically designed to mask the taste of beer because most kids don’t like the taste of it... Across America, stores carry these "alcopops" in the same coolers as popular non-alcoholic sports and energy drinks. They top it off by making alcohol as affordable as a school lunch. Add to this the glamorization of alcohol that we see in the entertainment industry, and what we get is an environment that encourages young people to drink. An environment where alcohol use is depicted as "cool" and underage drinking is slyly encouraged.


The alcohol industry says, "talk to teens," even as it targets the pre-teen market. But when the alcohol industry says, "talk to your kids," what they really mean is, talk to them - but for heaven’s sake don’t do anything else.


....Unfortunately, not all Americans are as informed as all of us here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to know more. As part of the AMA research, parents were presented with hard scientific data demonstrating that children are drinking. This made those same parents good and worried about child safety. When asked about factors other than parental responsibility, including advertising, music, peer groups, and targeted products, the same parents who initially blamed underage drinking on permissive parenting acknowledged the impact of environmental factors. When given the opportunity, parents came to understand there was more they could do than just "talk to their teen." They could help change the alcohol environment." By J Edward Hill


Note: "The [alcohol] industry...has shown in many ways that it is far more interested in profits than in the health, safety and welfare of the people. It is more interested in expanding its customer base to insure economic viability, while blaming its best customers for their problems. It refuses steadfastly to define what it means by “responsible drinking.” Even its “responsibility” messages serve its own interests, attempting thereby to absolve itself of corporate responsibility." TESTIMONY OF GERRIT L. DENHARTOG, PRIVATE CITIZEN


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