I’m not exactly sure why this is news at all. It’s part of a series of what I call “so what” or “duh” studies that the neo-prohibitionists use to promote their anti-alcohol agenda. Really, it can best be termed “joke science,” and frankly, even using the word science is giving it too much credit. It’s more “agenda science,” propaganda masquerading as science, where the conclusion comes before the “study,” and the results fit the agreed upon conclusion every time. This one’s from CAMY, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, as anti-alcohol a group as you’re likely to encounter. Here’s what they did.
[R]esearchers at CAMY and the Boston University School of Public Health conducted an online survey of 1,032 youth ages 13 to 20. Participants were asked about their past 30-day consumption of 898 brands of alcohol among 16 alcoholic beverage types (are there really that many well-delineated types?). They answered questions about how often and how much of each brand they consumed. The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
In a million years, you’ll never guess what they found out. Ready. Sitting down? They discovered that underage drinkers consume the same popular brands as most adults! Woo hoo, drop the balloons. What a surprise! Among the top ten brands reported, four were beers:
- Bud Light (27.9%)
- Budweiser (17%)
- Coors Light (12.7%)
- Corona Extra (11.3%)
Well, now let’s look at the top selling beer brands overall, as of Dec. 2, 2012:
- Bud Light (+3.27%)
- Coors Light (+6.18%
- Budweiser (-2.54%)
- Miller Lite (+3.32%)
- Natural Light (+2.07%)
- Corona Extra (+5.08%)
And note that Coors Light showed a better than six-percent increase, while Budweiser slipped almost three percent, so when the survey was conducted they most likely lined up, one, two, three.
According to the press release. “Of the top 25 consumed brands, 12 were spirits brands (including four vodkas), nine were beers, and four were flavored alcohol beverages.” Since they haven’t released the full list, we only know the top four brands of beer.
So however much money and resources they spent on this, what they paid for bought them the news that what adults drink and what their kids are sneaking a drink of match up almost exactly. And while most thinking adults would look at these lists and just shake their heads, the anti-alcohol CAMY sees this as revealed wisdom.
“For the first time, we know what brands of alcoholic beverages underage youth in the U.S. are drinking,” said study author David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. “Importantly, this report paves the way for subsequent studies to explore the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing efforts and drinking behavior in young people.”
Really? We finally know what kids are drinking, do we? Thank goodness somebody finally thought to ask them, by conducting a poll. And while most reasonable people might question what these results mean, CAMY immediately leaps to the conclusion that this proves an “association between exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing efforts and drinking behavior in young people.” Holy moley, can these people spin a yarn. Without any evidence of causation whatsoever, they declare these findings show there is an association. But all it reveals is that kids drink the same brands that their parents do, that they drink the beers they have access to (i.e., can pilfer from their parents’ stash or get an older brother to buy for them). Guess what I drank when I was unable to walk into a store and buy my own beer? Whatever I could get. Do they really think that underage kids are determining in advance what brands they decide they want to drink, and then do whatever’s necessary to insure that’s what they actually get? Pul-leeze. They’ll drink whatever they can get, and be happy about it. You can’t be too picky at that age. So it’s a good thing most teenagers haven’t yet developed a discerning palate, otherwise they’d be mightily disappointed on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, the danger with this sort of junk science is that it’s then used like real science to promote a particular agenda and change public policy. For example, when the Partnership for a Drug Free America reported on it, in Study Finds Underage Drinkers Prefer Top Alcohol Brands, they concluded with this quote from CAMY director David Jernigan:
“This research will lead to insights that will inform public policy,” he says. “Everybody has gut sense that some brands are appealing to kids more than others. Now we know for which brands that is working.”
Except that there are no real insights in this at all. That it’s even in a “scientific journal,” albeit “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research” — not exactly the journal Nature — is baffling. Here’s the “Background” from the abstract: “Little is known about brand-specific alcohol consumption among underage youth.” Really, we don’t currently know what brands underage kids are drinking? Seriously, how can they print that without losing all credibility. Neo-prohibitionists have been complaining about what kids are drinking for decades, if not longer. But until we asked 1,000 teenagers to take an online survey, we had no idea which brands? Are they kidding? What a joke.
Then there’s the “Conclusions,” which frankly I’m surprised is plural, as if there is more than one conclusion. But here it is: “Underage youth alcohol consumption, although spread out over several alcoholic beverage types, is concentrated among a relatively small number of alcohol brands. This finding has important implications for alcohol research, practice, and policy.”
I can’t wait to here about the “important implications” to which they believe that future “alcohol research, practice, and policy” will be altered by the groundbreaking news that kids are drinking the same stuff their parents are drinking. Why isn’t this on the front page, above the fold, of the Grey Lady herself? But really, the question ought to be why is it news at all.