A newer phenomenon is the glamorization of alcohol. In our modern media age, we are saturated by images and messages designed to influence our attitudes about alcohol. Today's advertisers not only want to sell us their products; they want to sell us a "lifestyle" based on an idealized image of what our lives will be like if we use their products.
I am sure you have seen them. Young, good-looking, happy men and women with great bodies and perfect teeth—stretched out in their bathing suits on the beach, or relaxing in their after-work clothes at a local tavern. No matter the setting, the message is always the same—these people know how to have a good time!
Who wouldn't want their lives to be like this? It is an appealing image, one that marketing experts have honed into an extremely seductive message. All you need to do is drink our beer (or wine cooler, or mixed drink, or wine, etc.) and this could be you with your extraordinarily attractive friends leading the "good" life!
Wait a minute! Is this an accurate portrayal that tells the whole story? Or could this be a glamorized view of the use of alcohol? As a young person faced with making important choices based on images such as these, it is important for you to discern what is going on.
People have used alcohol for thousands of years. Although it has its medicinal purposes, the main reason for its continued popularity is the relaxing effect it has on those who drink it. Even the Bible observes that wine "makes glad the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15).
A newer phenomenon is the glamorization of alcohol. In our modern media age, we are saturated by images and messages designed to influence our attitudes about alcohol. Today's advertisers not only want to sell us their products; they want to sell us a "lifestyle" based on an idealized image of what our lives will be like if we use their products. How effective would a wine advertisement be if it showed a lonely buyer taking a bottle home, to drink alone while watching television?
But there is another kind of "advertising" that glamorizes alcohol—the attitudes of our families and friends. Do the people around us think of drinking as a necessary part of any successful family gathering or social event? Do our friends associate alcohol with fun and excitement—maybe even as a necessary ingredient for fun and excitement in our lives? Without our realizing it, we may be falling victim to the glamorization of alcohol—the unrealistic portrayal of its role in a happy and successful life.
If we cannot trust the media's depiction of alcohol use, and our friends and families may be too reliant on alcohol for their idea of "excitement," where can we go to gain the right attitude about alcohol? If you are reading this magazine, you know that we believe the Bible reveals God's mind on almost any subject—including the use of alcohol.
Some may be surprised to learn that the Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol. Throughout God's word, we find many examples showing that alcohol can be a blessing if used properly in the right setting. For example, Jesus Christ's first recorded miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding He attended (John 2:1–10). The Apostle Paul instructed the young evangelist Timothy to "use a little wine" for health reasons (1 Timothy 5:23). The Bible even lists wine as one of the blessings God has given mankind to enjoy (Psalm 104:15).
However, the Bible also strongly condemns the abuse of alcohol. Indeed, entire sections of Scripture describe the dangers and consequences—even the stupidity—of drunkenness (Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:20–21, 29–35; Isaiah 5:11–12, 22).
When we put together everything the Bible says on the subject, it becomes obvious that alcohol is meant for our benefit, but only when enjoyed responsibly and in moderation. We should not assume that since "the Bible says it is okay to drink," we can abuse alcohol. Scripture makes it clear that we should not become controlled by alcohol (1 Corinthians 6:12); if it has power over us, we are not using it properly. We should never feel compelled to drink. Remember, just because something is allowable does not make it necessary (Galatians 5:13). If we find ourselves feeling that no social occasion is complete without alcohol, and that we cannot really have a good time unless there are drinks to be had, we can be sure we are being influenced not by God's word, but by the marketers and advertisers who seek to glamorize the use of alcohol.
Though responsible use of alcohol can enhance our lives, we all know of too many cases where alcohol is misused. Perhaps even among your own family and friends you have seen alcohol abuse lead to heartbreaking problems. Some drinkers even sink into the pit of alcoholism, where their drinking becomes a life-and-death matter. This tragic reality is not portrayed in those slick advertisements showing beautiful people sharing good times.
You may be thinking, "Oh, here we go again, another 'gloom-and-doom' article. Lighten up, dude! I just want to have some fun with my friends." Really? What may seem like harmless fun can have serious consequences for underage drinkers. A recent report by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Television and in National Magazines, 2001 to 2006; December 19, 2007) brings out the following statistics:
Alcohol use is the number-one drug problem among youth. More students in grades 8, 10 and 12 drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use illegal drugs. "Alcohol use remains extremely widespread among today's teenagers. Nearly three quarters of students (72 percent) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school; and about two fifths (39 percent) have done so by 8th grade.... Nearly a fifth (18 percent) of the 8th graders in 2007 report having been drunk at least once in their life" (Overview of Key Findings, 2007, NIH Publication 08-6418, p. 9)
Binge drinking among young people remains a major problem, despite significant efforts to reduce youth access to alcohol. In 2006, 7.2 million youth under age 21 reported binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks within two hours) within the past month.
The earlier young people start drinking, the worse the consequences. People who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to suffer alcohol-related problems than those who wait until 21 to drink. Those who drink heavily in adolescence and early adulthood are more likely to develop a metabolic profile that puts them at greater risk of cardiovascular problems later in life, whether or not they continue drinking.
The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that approximately 5,000 Americans under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking. Another report, by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that "research also shows that early initiation of alcohol use is associated with higher likelihood of involvement in violent behaviors, suicide attempts, unprotected sexual intercourse, and multiple sex partners." (Quantity and Frequency of Alcohol Use Among Underage Drinkers, March 31, 2008).
As the Bible revealed long ago, there is a right way and a wrong way to use alcohol. Modern society encourages alcohol abuse when it shows young people a glamorized image of alcohol consumption, hoping to instill at an early age wrong attitudes, which will develop into bad habits that will last for a drinker's whole life. As the above statistics show, this leads to dangerous consequences.
Marketers do not want you to think about your attitude toward alcohol. They want you to accept the popular images they offer—to take for granted that when you drink, you are participating in a world of glamour and fun, where drinking makes you more popular and fun to be around. But you are smarter than that. You can recognize that your view of alcohol has been shaped by many influences around you—some of which do not have your best interest at heart.
Remember, it is up to you how you use your mind and your life. The choices you make about alcohol will greatly affect your future and the people you love. It is up to you to rise above the influences around you, and to lay a solid foundation of responsibility and maturity that will serve you well for the rest of your life.