Sunday, October 07, 2001

Alcohol industry

A mixed cocktail message

        Some people think it's laughable that the same 18-year-olds we send into voting booths and off to war are considered legally incapable of drinking a beer. Not I. The idea of reserving a few vices for the elderly seems like a seriously good plan. In fact, I don't think anybody should be allowed to drink or smoke until they're 50.

        At least we'd have something to look forward to besides monthly greetings from AARP and putting our periodontist on the speed dial.

        But we probably don't really need any new laws. So, I'm just noticing. Just trying to be helpful.        

Lard replicas

        Someone from the World Association of the Alcohol Beverage Industries, Inc. called to say that the organization is getting ready for its latest campaign against underage drinking. “We're hoping for some press, and we'd like your help,” was the way she put it.

        I guess the companies that make alcoholic beverages would like to get credit for officially discouraging people from using their products. They even have something called the Century Council, “funded by America's leading distillers,” which has invested approximately $110 million in educational and outreach programs since 1991.

        That's a lot of money.

        Not as much as $166 billion, which is the amount estimated by the National Institutes of Health to be the annual cost of alcohol abuse in this country. But still.

        So, is anybody else out there prepared to follow the example set by the makers of spirits?

        What about the food people? Maybe Wendy's should refuse to Biggie Size everybody who, shall we say, has already Biggie Sized themselves?

        Perhaps, consideration should be given to demanding proof of healthy HDL and LDL levels before serving customers a hamburger the size of a manhole cover. Restaurants could put an age limit on the cheese and bacon toppings. Maybe they could prevent young people from becoming giant lard replicas of their parents.

Beautifying America

        And it wouldn't hurt the fashion industry to step up to the plate. How about refusing to sell those belly tees to anybody with an actual belly. And, in this case, no one over the age of 21 would be allowed to buy them.

        So far, it's only the makers of alcohol who have chosen to admit that what they sell is — how to delicately put this? — not exactly without flaw. The Century Council is dedicated to “fighting drunk driving and illegal underage drinking,” according to published materials.

        Will we be seeing lots of billboards with images of a 19-year-old with alcohol poisoning on his way to the emergency room? Or a high school kid barfing? Maybe an alcohol-related automobile accident?

        Of course not. Athletes, good-looking youngish people, beautifully dressed. Sitting next to mountain streams and on beaches. With a dinky warning at the bottom to “drink responsibly” or “think before you drink.”

        I don't suppose McDonald's is planning an ad campaign showing a mouth-watering quarter-pounder and fries with a discreet note to “eat responsibly.” Or a Gap ad with some buff kids in short tops with the admonition to “dress your age.”

        If they did, everybody would know this was just a way to hawk more burgers and clothes, a sanctimonious bid for respectability while selling the heck out of their products.

        And we'd laugh at them.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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