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Your Brain On Drugs

Being the learning junky that I am I came across this amazing article on adolescent brain development. Acts for Youth Upstate Center For Excellence released a report in 2002, that found the effects of drugs and alcohol on still developing teenage brains was serious.

 Your brain is still developing into your early twenties. It is still making new connections, increasing in grey matter, and building the framework of you.

One reason that teenagers  have problems with drugs and alcohol may be due to the fact that their brains are not fully developed. They tend to misinterpret emotions as well as being oblivious to real consequences of their actions. The study finds that the damage to teenage brains by alcohol and drugs are long lasting and can have major effects on the make up of the brain.

The good news is that the teenage brain is still developing, and if you choose to fill it with knowledge instead of alcohol and drugs you will have amazing effect. Use it or lose it, is the main rule of the brain. If you do not continue to learn and make new connections the neurons in your brain will die. So exercise your brain and pick up a book, not a beer.

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Shameless sales tactics

It is no secret that the target customer of beer and other alcohol companies is young people. No one ever sees middle-aged people that have gray hair having a drink in advertisements. This image does not sell. However, images of young, attractive, perfect-looking people do sell to all audiences.

Old Navy has jumped on this bandwagon and is trying to take advantage of teen drinking with the sell of their metal beverage containers and graphic t-shirts.

Oregon Partnership sent a letter to the CEO of  Gap, which owns Old Navy stores, stating:

“…the sale of such items to a young customer base is repugnant and goes against the company’s pledge of social responsibility.”

A spokes person responded to the letter:

“…at Old Navy, we strive to offer merchandise that appeal to a wide range of interests….it is never our intention to offend our customers and we apologize for any concerns related to our product.”

This response is half-hearted, to say the least. It is obvious the Gap company does not feel it needs to raise its standards and morals when selling products to the young people to purchase most of its merchandise.

Underage drinking is against the law. Killing is against the law. Stealing and holding people hostage is against the law. We don’t see companies selling t-shirts that advertise killing or kidnapping, which we agree are both against the law. But some, like Old Navy, try to promote an unlawful activity by selling merchandise that is marketed to young people.

Yes, these are just t-shirts and a “water” bottle. No, this is not the end of the world. But when alcohol has cause the devastating problems we see among teens today, adults need to help minors make good choices and be more creative in the products they choose to sell. And one last note: no where on these products does it say that people under the age of 21 should not drink or that underage drinking is against the law.

Alcohol and the ladies…

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Most people assume that men drink more alcohol than women. Research shows that theory to be true for the over 21 (legal to drink) population.

An interesting and troubling fact is that the trend is reversed for young girls and boys. When 8th graders are polled about their lifestyle choices, more girls than boys admit to consuming alcohol within the last 30 days. More girls than boys also admit to engaging in “binge drinking” which is defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks on the same occasion.

As young teens age, the gap shrinks before the trend reverses as teens enter adulthood (age 18, still not legal age for alcohol consumption).

Why?

One explanation is the advertisements. Producers of alcoholic drinks frequently advertise in magazines that are sold to teens. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that girls age 12-20 (all underage girls) were exposed to 68% MORE beer advertisement than their over 21 adult women counterparts. Boys between 12 and 20 also saw 29% more beer ads than men 21 or over. Girls saw 30% more ads than 21+ women for distilled spirits while boys and men saw about the same amount. Perhaps the most troublesome finding is that girls who are not yet of legal drinking age saw NINETY-FIVE PERCENT (95%) more ads than legal aged women for low-alcohol refreshers, also called alcopops, malternatives, or chick beer.

The advertisements have increased in frequency and are flooding magazines that young girls tend to buy. In 2002, girls’ exposure to magazine-based alcohol ads increased 216% compared to the year before. Boys’ exposure increased only 46% (still very significant) in their magazines. Sixteen alcohol brands made up more than half of the ads to which girls between 12 and 20 were exposed.

While girls continue to consume more alcohol, they also continue to have the most frequent, long-lasting, and immediate consequences for giving in to the walls of alcohol advertisements.

– girls and women are more susceptible to alcohol induced health problems related to the heart, brain, and/or liver
– women and men metabolize alcohol different so women may gain more weight than men as a result of consuming the booze-based calories
– several analyses have found that female consumption of alcohol increases the chances of developing breast cancer – a trend not matched with men
– teenage girls who are identified as binge drinkers are 63% more likely to become teen mothers than girls who do not drink
– in prisons, a survey revealed that 40% of sexual offenders assaulted women while they were under the influence of alcohol
– in domestic violence calls, 67% involve an abuser who consumed alcohol

If alcohol companies claim they are not advertising to teens; not targeting underage youth to begin or continue to drink, why would they advertise in magazines primarily purchased and viewed by that exact population? Is it ethical for magazine publishers and distributors to sell ad space to booze pushers when they know the purchasers of their magazines are largely underage youth? What could be done about it? Should the magazine producers be held accountable or is it the responsibility of the alcohol producer to be careful where they advertise?
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Inappropriate alcohol advertisements

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Inappropriate Alcohol Ads

Can you believe it? And they say they’re not targeting youth…

– Most teens have seen more than 75,000 advertisements for alcohol by the time they reach driving age
– Trends show that advertisements, especially for beer, have a heavy impact on current drinking behavior and intension to drink (if a certain brand advertises more then teens tend to drink that beer more)
– Teenagers report more positive opinions about drinking and their own likelihood to consume alcohol after viewing television alcohol ads
– 56% of students in grades 5 – 12 say that advertisements encourage them to drink alcohol
– More than $2 billion is spent each year on media advertising (most is seen by underage observers)
– $770 million of that money was specifically spent on television beer advertisements and another $15 million on radio beer ads. That is $785 million on beer ads!!

What does this mean to you? Do you feel targeted? Advertisements often feature individuals who teens consider describe as cool, healthy, athletic, powerful, influential, etc… With all these media advertisements, it is tough for teens to say no to alcohol use and abuse. Alcohol abuse is increasingly present in schools and in youth culture. The results are scary.

10 million people ages 10 to 20 said they had consumed alcohol within a month of being surveyed. 70% of those underage drinkers described uses that put them into the “binge drinking” category – the most dangerous consumption habit, leading to acute alcohol poisoning.

Other startling facts:
– youth who start drinking before age 15 are FOUR TIMES more likely than students who resist to develop alcoholism later in life
– alcohol is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes
– alcohol is linked to more than 2/3 of sexual assault and date rape of teens and college students
– drinking is one of the primary factors in teens engaging in unprotected sex
– alcohol companies pay for product placement in more than 235 motion pictures and 181 different television series each year including many with PG and PG-13 ratings
– In the top 15 television shows for teens, 8 featured alcohol placements

As bad as that is, there are teens resisting, but it get increasingly difficult with the media smorgasbord of advertisements that are most appealing to those who cannot legally consume the product.

Do you think it is fair for companies to use ads that appeal to teens? Should companies be penalized for advertising in kid-friend movies, magazines, or tv shows? How can teens resist advertising temptations and remain safe, sober, responsible, and healthy?