The alcoholic drink of choice for underage teens – especially girls – is flavored malt beverages known as Alcopops. The sweet, sugary alternatives to bitter beers and wines combine the sweet taste of Kool-Aid with the kick of malt liquor to create a taste that is particularly appealing to teens. The marketing for this style of alcohol also appeals to the younger generation. Even though the alcohol industry claims it is marketing alcopops to young adults, ages 21-27, far more teens than adults are aware of the advertising and commercials.
The industry has successfully managed to have alcopops grouped with beer instead of liquor. That opens the door to easier advertising as the liquor industry is able to use television to place its logos, colors, and brand names in front of millions of viewers, including teens. In addition, Alcopops are sold in stores licensed to sell beer and wine products such as convenience stores and grocery stores, as opposed to just liquor outlets.
According to Talbot Partnership for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, these drinks, with cool colors and names to match such as Twisted Tea, Doc Otis Hard Lemon, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Rick’s Spiked Mandarin Lime, Smirnoff Ice, Skyy Blue, Captain Morgan Gold, Stolichnaya Citrona, and Bacardi Silver – are a soft entry to the hard world of alcohol. They point out that the most important thing for parents to remember is simply this: Alcopop drinks are alcoholic drinks, and teens that drink them face the same problems as teens who drink beer, whiskey or wine, including alcoholism, liver disease (hepatitis, cirrhosis), cardiac problems and brain impairment.
Most people who are aware of alcopops mistakenly believe they aren’t as strong as other forms of alcohol. Actually, a 12-ounce alcopop, a 12-ounce mug of beer, a cocktail with 1.5 ounces of spirits, and a 5-ounce glass of wine have the same amount of alcohol (from 5-7%) and cause the same effects. There has been a growth in this country in binge drinking (defined as downing five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the last 30 days) and alcopops is seen as one of the factors causing this. Many people, especially teens, don’t like the bitter taste of most alcoholic drinks and will turn to the sweet flavor of alcopops instead. The sugary taste often entices people to drink – and keep drinking, since they seem to go down so smoothly.
For further information on Alcopops or additional information on substance abuse in our community, please call Talbot Partnership at 410-819-8067.