Do new beer ads promote risky drinking?
Just before the college football games start, two young roommates sit down in their pajamas to breakfast. One closes the shades and the other reaches into his bathrobe and pulls out two beers.
Another good-looking guy steps into the shower, the sun streaming through the window, as the steaming water hits his chest he closes his eyes, reaches up and cracks open a cold one.
Sounds like issues that would come up in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, right?
They are among a new series of Coors Light ads — geared toward a younger audience — dubbing Coors Light as “the official beer of Saturday morning” and “the official beer of drinking in the shower.”
“Alcoholism is one of our nation’s biggest health problems,” said Dr. J. Craig Allen, Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network Vice President of Addiction Services and Rushford Medical Director. “These commercials are glorifying problem drinking. Drinking alone, drinking at breakfast, drinking in the shower. What are the messages being sent?”
To be sure, the actors in the commercials are not blue-collar workers having a cold one after work or hip millennials at night clubs or parties.
“What they are saying is beer – it’s not just for social occasions, dinner or an evening event,” said Dr. Allen, who first saw the commercials watching a football game with his 14-year-old son. “Ads like these decrease the perception of risk and normalize patterns of use associated with problem drinking which can lead to addiction.”
According to a MillerCoors blog, the “Made to Chill” series of ads are not geared towards youngsters but it has generated a large degree of excitement and positive reaction, especially on social media. It says their strategy is to “build brands that make real connections with and spark conversations among consumers.”
Dr. Allen said the latest campaign is part of a disturbing trend.
“In our society, beer and other alcoholic beverages are intertwined with cultural events and rites of passage,” he said. “It is the norm to see beer sponsoring sporting events, sold in stadiums and even imbibed by participants in Saturday afternoon softball baseball games. However, social media phenomena like The Beer Mile, in which world-class athletes drink a beer after each quarter mile, blur the lines intimating that binge drinking is a legitimate sport.”
And no matter what the intent, all of this is being seen by youngsters.
“Underage drinking, and use of any addictive substance before the age of 21 (including nicotine), significantly increases the risk of alcoholism and other substance use disorders as an adult,” Dr. Allen added.
Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network offers alcohol recovery help through its MATCH (Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home) Program. For more information, click here.