MADD Slams T-Shirts That Encourage Teen Drinking
The national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Jan Withers said that kids should not be wearing T-shirts like the ones Urban Outfitters is selling that promote drinking alcoholic beverages. “Marketing [alcohol-related products] to teens is not in any way acceptable,” she told Sarah B. Weir, a Yahoo! Shine Fashion blogger.
Weir notes that the chain, which markets its wares mainly to customers between 18 and 24, and secondarily to children under 18, has been promoting a new line of T-shirts, pictured on the store’s website on what appear to be teen models, with provocative messages like “USA Drinking Team.” She writes:
A version modeled by a young woman, who appears to be a teen, is emblazoned with blurred letters reading, ‘I Drink You’re Cute.’ Sadly, what’s apparently meant to be a joke isn’t far from the truth: alcohol use is associated with increased rates of sexual activity for teens as well as decreased condom use [PDF].
Nearly 80% of alcohol-related fatalities among college students are due to drunk driving, according to the U.D. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Protection.
And many people begin abusing alcohol at younger ages; the latest annual survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University finds that 86% of American high school students estimate that 17% of their classmates use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs during the school day, as Allison Terry reports in a recent Christian Science Monitor article appearing on Yahoo! News.
MADD’s Withers, whose own daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed in a car accident by an underage drinker when she was 15, told Weir that these T-shirts that promote teen drinking can be a teaching moment:
‘It’s a perfect opportunity to talk to kids about the dangers of alcohol use for teens,’ she tells Shine. ‘Part of our mission at MADD is to prevent underage drinking and the research shows that the best way to combat this is to have an ongoing dialogue with our children.’ She points out that while studies show that as many as one out of five kids is binge drinking, that means, ‘four out of five aren’t. We can remind our kids that not everybody is drinking. Parents have much more influence over kids and alcohol use than we think.’
Janet Evans, spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission’s program to prevent underage drinking, Dontserveteens.gov, told Weir that although she is disturbed by these T-shirts, they are protected under laws that allow branded merchandise. Evans said more research is needed on the relationship between teen drinking and dropping out of school. “The numbers are appalling,” she said.
One of the more than 8,000 people who posted comments below the Yahoo! Shine piece — someone identified only as “A Yahoo User” — writes: “They sell these shirts to get free publicity for their stores because they know they’re controversial. It worked.”