Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?

March 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

Many argue that, given the accepted nature of it within society, alcohol is far removed from the likes of cannabis in being classified as a “gateway drug”. Most people regard Marijuana, with its varying legality in different parts of the world, as the flagship of gateway drugs (along with tobacco) although recent studies have indicated alcohol to be far more influential. There is also a valid argument that alcohol can provide the perfect setup for the taking of illegal and harmful drugs.

Alcohol is an accepted part of society, providing, for many, a basis for socializing and night-life and, when handled responsibly, it can be enjoyed in social scenarios and facilitate a laid-back and lively atmosphere. Yet the dangers of alcohol and the responsibility that comes with its consumption are underlined by the fact that it is unavailable to those under 21 and, as such, is for adult consumption only. At 21, one is expected to have an inherent level of maturity to understand their own limits and yet, even then, alcohol, in its lowering of inhibitions and relaxing of self-awareness, is regarded as a gateway for harmful drugs. Studies in August 2012’s ‘The Journal of School Health’ have proven alcohol as a far more influential drug in the taking of illicit drugs than marijuana, often regarded as the gateway drug.

When one exceeds their own personal limits, they find themselves in a state where their understanding of right and wrong is blurred and, as such, the idea of taking illegal drugs becomes more attractive. When under the influence of alcohol, one is far more likely to give into peer pressure than when they are sound of mind. Any poll taken, within the United States in the cold light of day, would highlight that, whilst sober, there is a unanimous aversion to the taking of illegal drugs and yet the same people could just as easily fall victim to peer pressure at a time when their inhibitions and sense of reason have been dramatically lowered. Most addictions to illegal drugs begin from an off-hand taking during social situations and almost all of these situations are facilitated by alcohol.Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug

When one surpasses the point of moderation and alcohol becomes a central part of a person’s life , studies and testimonials from drug addicts have shown that people often seek harder drugs as a means of finding a new thrill and high, beyond that which they have come accustomed to via alcohol. Alcoholism has a deep rooted effect on the personality of the sufferer, leading to what is theoretically known as an “addictive personality”. Studies at the Las Vegas ‘Adult Drug Court Program’ showed that 27% of the harder drug addicts said their addiction began via an earlier alcohol addiction.

Although alcohol can be largely detrimental, its legality is a testament to the fact that, as long as one understands their own limits and the potential risks of alcohol, it can have positive impacts in social situations and continues to benefit the wider economy. However, it is important that users do not drink in excess to the point where their sense of rationality and reason are lowered or to the point when an alcohol dependency creates a pathway to illegal drug use. Although harder drug addiction has been linked to a number of contextual and psychological factors, alcohol has an undeniable influence in creating a pathway towards harder drugs and as such, if one feels the need to drink, it is always essential that they do so responsibly.

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Should Alcohol Commercial Be Banned?

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

Alcohol commercials have been around for years now, but are they really appropriate and should they be banned?

There is no proven link between the commercials and the amount of alcohol consumed, so is the ban really necessary?

Alcohol abuse is an illness and one caused by many different complex and personal reasons and is unlikely to be sorted by something as simple as the ban of commercials. Whilst this is true, nobody is saying things will change overnight. The ban of alcohol commercials may not be a solution to the excessive levels of alcohol consumption but it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Positive Promotion

The glamorization of alcohol in advertisements is said to have influence on people and their behavior or beliefs. Of course the advertisers are going to promote their brand in a positive light, so how can they argue that they aren’t encouraging people to drink? The companies show their drink in the best possible way in order to sell their products, but don’t inform people about the risks associated with drinking. How can someone deem it appropriate to advertise something positively that affects so many people in a dangerous way.

Targeting the young

Currently, the standard is that alcohol advertisements can only be placed in media where the majority of the audience is over the legal drinking age, but what about that small minority that are underage. Many adverts have been criticized for appealing to the younger audience, specifically through the means of social network sites.POLITICS Alcohol 1

A study in April 2012 revealed that, 78.2% of US teenagers were reported to have consumed alcohol; and 15.1% met criteria for lifetime abuse. This proves that it’s not just people of legal age who are affected by alcohol abuse.
Facebook were quick to deny claims that they allow alcohol companies to target children. But how can anyone really control who has access to what on


Advertising leads to awareness
Many people would not know of all the different brands or different types of alcohol if it weren’t for the adverts. Whilst yes, everyone will be aware that alcohol exists, they would be less likely to try something new or would be unaware of it, if they hadn’t seen it advertised.

Out of sight out of mind

Following from the previous point, people would also be less aware of any offers, or promotions if it weren’t for the commercials. Seeing alcohol being advertised could be the fatal step back for a recovering alcoholic, or could be the first step towards someone starting to drink. People often say, ‘out of sight out of mind’. Following this principle we could assume that the ban of alcohol commercials would help to prevent people from consuming alcohol. After all, if the adverts weren’t succeeding in selling the products then why would people be spending ridiculous amounts of money on producing them? So they must in some way be influencing people to buy their products.

Alcohol abuse is an illness

Alcohol in itself isn’t a health issue, and in moderation is perfectly safe. It’s more down to the individual and their decision to drink responsibly or not. However, alcohol abuse is an illness, and how can you expect these people to keep control of their illness with advertisements being pushed in their faces. People don’t understand the effects alcohol can have on not just an individual but the people around them or just how serious this illness can be. The ban of alcohol commercials would not only help prevent people from starting drinking, but also support recovering alcoholics and therefore be beneficial.

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The Dangers of Alcohol Advertisement

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

There is no denying it. Alcohol is well and truly a well accepted part of modern society. A champagne toast at an event, a casual drink with friends, Holy Communion… All common occasions and the list goes on. This acceptance in our culture is certainly reflected in all forms of media advertising such as billboards, TV commercials, radio adverts, and posters. But is the use of media merely reflecting, or multiplying the desire for alcohol?

Alcohol advertising is one of the most controversial forms of marketing worldwide, running alongside tobacco advertisement for the prized place of “Most Highly Regulated”. This strict regulation has arisen from the need to balance the seller’s desire for profitability and market share, and what is good for the consumer. There is no surprise there is controversy, when one considers alcohol has been found to be the most misused drug globally, and its consumption being accountable for the death of 100,000 American citizens every year. As the purpose of advertising a product is to influence buyer behavior, there are many dangers that come with promoting the consumption of alcohol. One of these dangers is underage drinking.

In January 2006, a national study concluded that a greater exposure to alcohol advertising correlates with an increase in the amount of underage drinking. This study showed that in a local market, spending one extra dollar per capita above the national average on alcohol advertising, young people drank 3% more. This shows immediate effects on youth drinking, but knock on effects have also been shown. This has been shown with a study of 2,250 middle-school students in Los Angeles, which found that the more alcohol commercials watched by a seventh grade student, the more likely they are to drink alcohol in the next academic year. Long term effects shows the lasting influence adverts can have on adolescents.The Dangers of Alcohol Advertisement

Another danger is increased or dangerous drinking. If someone has a positive reaction to an alcohol advert, they are more likely to have positive expectancies about alcohol use. We have all seen adverts of people having fantastic and glamorous nights on the town, whilst drinking a certain brand of alcohol. Often it is a case of “I want what they have”, (the lifestyle, the fun, the enjoyment), and thus as the alcohol is the focus of the advert, this desire becomes associated with alcohol. This is supported with many areas of literature, varying from psychology to marketing, which support the concept that because of how the human brain develops, we are attracted to alcohol as it is associated with risky behavior and feel it could provide immediate gratification. This is the idealization of alcohol; the belief it will give you what you want in life, as that is what you have seen in adverts.

Alcohol advertisements not only idealizes alcohol, but normalizes it. Seeing photos, for example, of alcohol on a regular basis could make drinking seem like a common occurrence. If you were to see several pictures of people drinking in a park, it may implant the idea of drinking in a park. By establishing in your mind that you should be drinking regularly, outside of what you would already do, the frequency of when you would drink alcohol could increase. This normalization of alcohol is a danger, as it breaks down normal conventions and increases consumption. This could lead to have health implications.

It could be argued that not everyone is at risk of advertising influence and it is dependent on each individual; however the trends are still undeniable. The impact of advertising on radio and television audiences have even been recognized by the National Association of Broadcasters, who emphasize it cannot be overstated. It has been estimated that a complete ban of alcohol advertising could result in a reduction of 7,609 deaths from harmful drinking, plus a 16.4% drop in alcohol-related life-years lost. This fact alone really and truly highlights the extent of the danger of alcohol advertising, and shows how it could multiply the desire for alcohol rather than cater to it.

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Should Advertisement Promote Positive Images of Alcohol?

March 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

Marketing and advertising is a crucial part of the alcohol supply chain given that sales of alcoholic beverages have been fairly flat or declining for the past two decades. This is seen from the 1.57 billion dollars spent in America on traditional media (television, radio, print and outdoor advertising) in 2001, which rose to two billion in 2005. Therefore it is clear that promotion of positive images of alcohol is needed to some extent to support the industry and the jobs and livelihoods of those working within it. However young people are often the main target audience for such advertisement, with significant evidence suggesting that there is a strong link between such targeting and increases in underage and teen drinking. Therefore it seems whilst it is greatly important to the industry to promote such positive images of alcohol, caution must be exercised when targeting younger audiences.

There is a wealth of evidence that points towards links between exposure to advertising that promoted positive images of alcohol and underage drinking. A study in 2006 concluded that each additional advert seen by an underage individual caused a one percent rise in their drinking and each additional dollar spent per capita on advertising caused youths to drink three percent more. Not only were there links to increases in general underage drinking but advertising made binge drinking more likely. In a group of 2250 middle school students in Los Angeles, those who were more exposed to traditional forms of Should Advertisement Promote Positive Images of Alcoholmedia that promoted alcohol were more likely to drink three or more drinks on one occasion. Promotion of positive images of alcohol glamorizes it and portrays it as enhancing attractiveness to the opposite sex and social popularity, qualities which are particularly valued by the younger population and those under the legal drinking age. Therefore, it seems promotion of alcohol has direct correlation to underage drinking, which is bad in itself, and underage binge drinking which can be seen as much worse given its links to alcoholism in later life.

Although such positive adverts do frequently feature ‘Drink Responsibly’ slogans, these slogans are often placed away from the focus of the viewer and hence are easily go unnoticed. Furthermore, phrases like ‘Drink Responsibly’ are ambiguous and subjective, as what is deemed to be responsible drinking will vary between individuals whilst especially amongst younger audiences, other values such as ‘fitting in’ may seem more important than responsible drinking. Such adverts that promote these positive images of alcohol also completely fail to notify the viewer of the significant negative effects alcohol poses, such as alcoholism and various threats to both mental and physical health. Therefore the nature of the targeting of the younger bracket of legal drinkers affects and has an impact on those approaching, but still under, the legal drinking age. Furthermore, alcohol companies seem to be misinforming people about alcohol by failing to give the full picture to the consumer. In this sense, promotion of positive images of alcohol is clearly having a negative impact.

Whilst it is important to recognize that the alcohol industry and its dependents need to some way to promote its consumption to survive in a competitive world, promotion as it is currently is having a negative impact through underage drinking and failing to give consumers the full picture. Giving alcohol a positive image is permissible but the targeting of younger audiences is where the issue lies. Therefore perhaps advertising should promote positive images of alcohol amongst older audiences who have spent years around alcohol and so will be better informed. In this way positive images of alcohol, not necessarily should, but may be promoted but only if such promotion is aimed at those who are not near the threshold of the legal drinking age.

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