The manufacturers of various alcohol products and their marketers have been criticized for decades for marketing to young audiences. Messages might show beautiful young people enjoying sun, surf and socializing on the beach—everyone with a delicious-looking alcohol drink in hand. The messages might vary but are always clear: “Drink this to look sexy and have fun.”
As these messages invariably worked, enticing their target demographic to purchase more of their alcohol products, companies began to produce alcoholic beverages with a decidedly more youthful formula. Fizzy and fruity beverages containing alcohol not only caused a buzz but tasted great with the first sip. In fact, in many soda-like drinks, there’s barely the taste of alcohol.
The danger of fruity alcohol drinks like alcopops is that they are designed for, appeal to, and are marketed to a younger audience. Closely resembling soft drinks, these alcoholic drinks don’t even look, smell, or even taste like an alcoholic beverage like beer or cocktails made with hard liquors, so they’ve become the fuel for driving binge drinking among teens and young adults.
Moreover, alcoholic drinks like these can pave the way to dependence. Even though the alcohol content of some may be low, many manufacturers have boosted their alcopop’s alcohol content to 12 percent or even more. “Fun” alcohol drinks pose a serious risk to young adults just as any alcoholic drinks do. Here we’ll explore what alcopops are and their dangers.
Why the Concern for “Fun” Alcoholic Beverages?
Perhaps one might say that young people have often underestimated the dangers of alcohol since the first meads, barley beers and wines were produced. Too often, a person doesn’t understand the effects of alcohol on their mind and body until they’ve experienced them for themselves. Of course, the earliest of the Egyptian brewmasters, for example, didn’t have a team of savvy marketers and multiple social media channels to promote their products to the masses. Today, the young continue to be bombarded by marketing messages that tell them that drinking alcohol is fun.
The chief concern about alcopops is that this class of alcoholic beverages promotes underage drinking. In 2019, seven million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol beyond a few sips in a given month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In fact, the NIAAA also reports that “90 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed by young people are consumed through binge drinking.”
Binge drinking is, of course, a serious form of alcohol abuse. Not only can it increase the risk for developing alcoholism, but an acute session of binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening health emergency. Every day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 260 people lose their lives to alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol is one of the most preventable causes of death in the nation.
Young people with much less experience with alcohol may be unaware of all the health risks associated with alcohol use. But there are other risks to consider, too, that adds to the concern about alcopops. For instance, did you know that roughly one out of four girls got into a car driven by someone who had been drinking after they had been drinking? Nearly two-thirds of underage drinkers drank an alcopop within the last 30 days.
Alcohol consumption among young adults is also linked to increased risks for thoughts of suicide, unsafe sexual activity, fighting, and driving while over the legal limit of alcohol. The CDC and other health agencies are concerned about alcopops, underage, and binge drinking among young adults. Many parents are concerned about these things, and, increasingly, many communities and colleges are concerned too. But are the marketers and alcopop producers? That’s less clear, especially in light of newly released “supersized alcopops.”
Trends in Younger Generation Alcohol Consumption
Despite some of the sobering statistics just mentioned, there is some good news regarding the younger generations of today, Millennials and Gen Z (Zoomers), and their consumption of alcohol. These generations are consuming 20 percent less alcohol than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers did at the same age, according to a Berenberg Research report. Teetotalism, alcohol abstinence, is also on the rise. The percentage of young people who report not drinking at all has risen more than 30 percent in recent years.
Even so, alcohol consumption remains a serious problem among the significant percentage of young adults who do drink and often binge drink products like alcopops. Alcopops, as discussed, are fruity and fizzy. The alcohol is often masked by sweet flavors that young people are known to love. Manufacturers rev up the drinks with vibrant colors like hot red and blue raspberry and add eye-catching graphics to the products’ packaging.
The first generation of alcopops dates back to the 1990s and the entry of Zima into the alcoholic marketplace. Its success paved the way for other sweet and tasty alcoholic drinks designed to target drinkers, especially young women, who didn’t like the taste of beer. With today’s incarnation of supersized-alcopops, the danger is clear. According to Science Daily, “New research led by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found that nearly one-half (46.3 %) of all calls to U.S. poison control centers involving supersized alcopop consumption were made for consumers below the legal drinking age.”
Similarly, hard seltzer products also cater to younger drinkers or drinkers who don’t like the taste of beer and harder liquors. The sweet flavors of these beverages entice people to drink while masking the flavor of alcohol. While these products were first thought to be little more than a “fad,” the move among brewers to add to their repertoire of products is only growing, especially in light of the recent pandemic that saw an increase in the sale of alcohol products. In fact, 60 percent of people reported increasing their alcohol consumption in 2020.
Consumption of Alcohol
Whether it’s an alcopop, hard seltzer, wine cooler, beer or a cocktail, alcohol poses risks when consumed. No matter what medium it takes, alcohol is a substance that must be consumed, if consumed at all, with care and caution. The statistics surrounding the dangers of alcohol abuse are factual and corroborated by multiple researchers and leading organizations of study. And, yet, alcohol remains a leading cause of preventable death in this country.
If you are concerned about a drinking habit or suspect you have become dependent on or addicted to alcohol, there is help. FHE Health specializes in treating alcohol problems. To learn more, contact us today.