Life often imitates art. It seems that’s now more true than ever and alcohol producers are counting on it. Scenes from movies and comedic online ads meant to be funny, can take on lives of their own, with consequences well beyond the computer and TV screen. As a result, many more women are drinking to excess than ever before.
In 2013, more than a million women ended up in emergency rooms around the country due to heavy drinking, with middle-aged women most severely affected. Alcohol related deaths for white women ages 35-54 has more than doubled since 1999, according to a study reported by the Washington Post study on health data, accounting for a whopping 8% of total deaths in this age group in 2015. What’s going on?
I believe one of the key culprits is online ads, which seem to have a bit more edge to them nowadays. At one website, Mad Housewife, they quipped “the most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink.” Mommy’s Time Out, another popular online destination, shows two women engaged in casual conversation. “How much do you spend on a bottle of wine?” one asks. “I would guess a half hour,” is the reply. Woman are bombarded with vignettes of busy mothers sipping whiskey, guzzling wine and sidling up to the bar knocking down a few with male co-workers. The message, ‘it’s cool to be a drinking mom’. Clips from movies, gone viral online, are also proving problematic. In one scene from the movie “Trainwreck”, starring pop-culture Amy Schumer, she chugs an entire bottle of boxed wine from Trinchero Family Estates. Was it mere coincidence that winery was also one of the film’s producers? I think not. Young women then followed up online, emulating their cultural hero with videos of them chugging while promoting the product as “binge in a box”. The wine’s sales jumped 22 percent shortly thereafter.
The liquor industry appears to be cloaking their advertising by coyly draping it in the flag of gender equality, “we’ve been creating similar ads targeting men for decades.” However, that just muddles the issue. They shouldn’t be glorifying drinking to excess to anyone – period. Not men, not women, not adolescents. Moreover, women are more easily affected by alcohol than men because they generally weigh less and also metabolize alcohol at a different pace. The US Surgeon General classifies binge drinking as four drinks within two hours for women, but five when it comes to men. Women also have unique health concerns including increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and certain nerve conditions.
The biggest concern is that this new casual form of advertising is now becoming the new normal. It started slowly and continues its creep. Advertisers typically keep pressing the limits until they hit pushback, anything they can do to drive more sales and line their pockets. For people who aren’t addicts, there are certainly studies demonstrating some benefits from moderate drinking. Advertisers use that as their shield. However, studies have shown that Akai berry and Pomegranate juice have similar levels of anti-oxidants to red wine, without the alcohol. These benefits can also be achieved by taking Resveratrol, in the form of a pill. Moreover, studies like those always seem to discount the damage to addicts who get caught in the cross-fire, addicts who use such research as an excuse to drink or who mistakenly think they too can benefit. But addicts don’t do moderation. That’s why it’s important to print articles like this and to pass them along to others. We need to be that ‘pushback’ in order to keep the advertisers in check.