Selling Booze to Our Babies

by David J. Hanson, Ph. D.

“Selling Booze to our Babies” is the attention-grabbing title of an editorial by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth’s research director, David Jernigan.

Who would be selling alcohol beverages to our babies? How could babies, who are by definition “very young children” or “the youngest of the young,” even buy anything at all?

The answer is simple. Many of the “babies” to whom Mr. Jernigan refers are 18, 19, and 20 years old. In other words, he refers to legal adults as babies. But why refer to either adolescents or adults as babies?

Again, the answer is simple. The scientific evidence clearly doesn’t support the prohibitions on alcohol ads promoted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY). That could be a problem in achieving the activist group’s self-proclaimed goal of creating “public outrage” against alcohol beverage ads.

CAMY’s solution is simple and effective but disingenuous. First, use emotion-laden language to persuade. Thus, the title of the editorial.

Second, present irrelevant facts. Because scientific evidence consistently fails to support CAMY’s assertion that alcohol ads cause young people to drink or to drink more, it resorts to presenting a plethora of statistics about alcohol ads. Thus, CAMY reports in alarming tones the amount of money spent on alcohol ads, on how may young people (“babies”) potentially see the ads, how many parents believe that there are too many alcohol ads, how many believe (falsely) that ads cause young people to begin drinking or to drink more, how many young people can recognize characters used in some alcohol ads, and so on.

While these tactics are born of desperation, they nevertheless are effective in swaying public opinion. Therefore, we can expect more editorials and news releases from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth using emotional language and presenting irrelevant facts and information.

 

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