Flipping through the latest issue of In Style magazine, I came across five advertisements for various brands of alcohol.
One ad, for Hennessy, displays a picture of two attractive young women, neither of whom really looks old enough to drink, walking across a street in the rain. A handsome man nearby offers them his umbrella. In the bottom right corner is an image of a bottle of this particular drink.
As a 17-year-old girl, in the age group that is most frequently targeted by these companies, what I see is two women who have the power to attract members of the opposite sex through their choice of hard liquor.
What young girl doesn't want this kind of attention and control? See anything wrong with this picture?
Many parents think they should monitor their daughters' reading material, particularly fashion magazines, because the images in them promote the idea of anorexia as beauty. Little do they realize that the pictures of these waiflike women not only relay an idea of what is considered attractive in our society but also encourage underage drinking, whether directly or not.
This advertising tactic is not limited to teen-age girls; it's aimed at young men as well. One beer ad I came across shows a picture of a man's hand gripping a beer bottle that is actually a woman's body. The skimpy clothing worn by the woman is reserved for the logo of the company. In an article on CNN.com, advertisement analyst Peter DeBenedittis said of this ad: 'It's the adolescent male fantasy. The beer and the alcohol is the woman. If you'll just drink, you'll get these things.'
Of the 20,000 commercials a year that the average teen will see, 2,000 will be alcohol-related. As if that isn't bad enough, advertisements for beer and wine outweigh 'just say no' ads by 25- or 50-to-1. With statistics such as these, it is not surprising that 56 percent of students from ages 5 to 12 say this type of advertisement encourages them to drink.
As a senior in high school, I know about the pressure to drink and the influence this pressure has on my peers. It's hard enough to turn down the push from friends to drink. When teens find themselves questioning their values because a picture in a magazine promises them popularity, power and sex appeal, it becomes even more difficult to say no.
I can gladly say that I can see through this form of advertising because of my education about drugs and alcohol. For the past year and a half, I have been volunteering for Oregon Partnership's Drug and Alcohol YouthLine, which has given me the knowledge I need to stand up to the pressure to drink.
I know I can't change people who aren't willing, but from my experiences I also know I can set an example for my peers by my sobriety and my awareness of the issue at hand. Sometimes all people need is an example, and I am proud to say that an example is exactly what I can be.
Valerie Reynolds, a senior at Grant High School in Northeast Portland, volunteers on Oregon Partnership's YouthLine. She was recently chosen as the 'EPeerson' of the Month on the EPeer Voices Web site, a national site dedicated to teens and substance abuse prevention at www.epeervoices.com.