Despite laws in every state against the use of alcohol by young people, drinking and driving by adolescents continues to be a major problem. And advertising of alcoholic beverages is a major factor.
Youngsters under age 21 are twice as likely to die in an alcohol-related accident as those over 21, even though all states have laws against people under 21 purchasing alcohol.In a series of hearings across the country this year, young people themselves admitted that advertising played a major role in encouraging adolescents to drink.
In the light of that problem, The National Commission Against Drunken Driving this week took the only logical step, warning that federal laws may be needed on such advertising, much the same way cigarette ads are banned.
The study blamed national advertising for repeatedly showing in beer commercials that drinking is the accepted part of a social event, and implying that it is the way to have fun, to be in a popular crowd.
The usual industry response is that it is not trying to lure under-age youngsters into drinking, but only to promote a particular brand. Yet while adolescents are not used in such advertising, the emphasis decidedly is on youthful actors, excitement, and beautiful people - all powerful lures for the young.
The commission urged that alcohol and advertising industries take a good look at what they are doing and "act like a parent" when putting together ads that may be watched on television by youngsters far too young to legally drink.
However, appealing to the conscience of the alcohol industry is a very slender reed on which to lean, especially if the ads are popular and are helping the industry's profitability.
Anything that encourages drinking, just as anything that encourages smoking, is clearly not in the best interest of young people.
It finally took federal action to deal with cigarette advertising. That same approach to alcohol ads ought to be seriously considered.