Alcoholism is something that carries both a national and global concern, and is seemingly becoming prevalent across a younger social demographic. Both the US and UK have had specific incidents recently which have raised concerns about both the attitudes towards drinking and each notions methodology for regulating the consumption of alcohol amongst their citizens. This week was especially prominent, as the US along saw an infant aged 4 treated for alcohol ingestion, while up to 17 states are currently canvasing drinks producers Pabst Brewing Co. to refrain from marketing their beverages to a youthful market.
While the former incident occurred in Chicago and was the latest in a spate of nationwide incidents where children have consumed alcohol in public restaurants, the latter responds to a brand new drink promoted by rapper Snoop Dog. A malt based beverage called Blast, it comes in a variety of vibrant fruit flavors while boasting packaging and marketing material that is suited to a younger audience, yet it actually contains an exceptionally potent 12 percent of alcohol and is stronger than a typical can of beer.
A Lack of Responsible Awareness
The issue of alcohol consumption is not just a problem in the US, and recent events in the UK saw an 8 year old commence treatment for alcoholism after growing up in a family of negligent elders who were heavy and irresponsible drinkers. This may be the formation of a troubling global trend in terms of the social attitudes towards drinking, whereby it may become something entirely anti-social amongst teenagers and young adults. This manifests itself in alternative social issues, such as violent crime and health afflictions.
Although the US employ a minimum drinking age of 21 amongst its citizens, it is the enforcement of this regulation and its significance in contemporary society which appears to be the most relevant issue. If a minimum drinking age of 21 exists on the one hand, it is rendered increasingly meaningless if alcoholic drinks are being conceived, produced and then marketed to a younger and less responsible social demographic. This practice ensures that the law eventually becomes an ideal that is merely paid lip service to, while brands continue to legally encourage and validate under age drinking through their various promotions.
Freedom at what Cost?
Although it is theoretically a difficult balancing act to marry the freedoms of trade and movement with protecting vulnerable members of society, this is the type of task that marks a democratic rule as significant. While companies retain the right to develop and market their products within the boundaries of the law, there must surely be a moral and ethical concern as to products or services which clearly appeal to an unsuitable social demographic. The specific campaign to advertise Blast included bright packaging and flavors that are known to appeal those in their late teens, while the presence of a globally renowned hip-hop star is also engaging to a younger audience.
Clearly, while this marketing strategy is not illegal within the technical definition of law, it is seriously unethical in the terms of who it appeals to. There is therefore a danger that this type of campaign could incite an illegal response in the form of under-age alcohol consumption, which in itself means that a freedom is being unintentionally violated to the detriment of society. This is where governments and law enforcement bodies become significant, as they have the tools and the influence to adopt a supported moral stand in order to protect the interests of their citizens.
Morality Over Law and Legislation
As morals are perhaps the primary motivator of individual conduct, the government should lead by example in the way that they conceive and implement law and legislation. This is especially relevant in protecting young and vulnerable members of society from the dangers of alcohol, drugs and poor eating habits, as food and drink companies and marketing brands can operate between the lines of the law to inadvertently prompt dangerous and illegal behaviour. In this instance, morality and teaching it effectively becomes the most potent weapon in combating social issues.
It is well accepted that individuals aged between 15 and 18 are the most vulnerable to forming addictions and addictive personality traits, which is why the US government has implemented a minimum drinking age of 21. While this is a positive step, it does not by itself ensure that individuals under the age of 21 refrain from consuming alcohol, especially as temptation can be portrayed through many legal and accessible mediums. So the government must adopt and enforce principles outside of legal boundaries, at least to protect individuals who are susceptible to suggestion.