T-Shirts, Hats and Trinkets: Those who openly posses alcohol-branded clothing or hats are twice as likely to engage in underage drinking, and more than twice as likely to binge drinking.(1) Government and private research into this area began in the late 80′s, in response to the alarming rates of teen smoking. Of course, tobacco companies had developed their own marketing research, and had been very effective at using their branded clothing items to increase smoking rates amongst adolescents. In the “Master Settlement Agreement” eventually achieved through through civil litigation, the tobacco companies finally agreed to abandon the strategy. The alcohol industry has not followed suite.
Research has shown that the possession of these items alone is a significant predictive factor regarding both the development of beliefs which embrace drinking, as well as actual use patterns exhibited by adolescents. These findings hold solid, even when variables such as ‘parental drinking behavior’ and ‘peer influences’ are controlled. Another troubling finding is that 76% of the teens who own such gear, report receiving the items as gifts from family or friends.
Breath Mints: The use of gum and breath mints is very popular with people who have recently been drinking. Small bottles of mouthwash too, are often found in the center console of cars owned by alcoholics. There are even commercial products, like NuBreath, which specifically claim to eliminate alcohol breath. These items don’t remove the odor of beer -which comes directly from the lungs- they cover it up.
Flasks: Flasks are an increasingly popular fixture on college campuses. The retail giant Walmart was recently criticized for placing a special display of aluminum flasks alongside its display of dorm-room supplies. They are now available in the likeness of notepads, flashlights, deodorant bars and ipods.
Funnels: Funnels are used as an accessory to abusive drinking. They enable a person to artfully consume a 12 oz can of beer in less than 10 seconds.
Bottle Openers: Bottle openers come in many different shapes and sizes. The presence of a bottle opener on a person’s key chain is a significant indication of their drinking practices.
Plastic Bottles: When it comes to concealing and transporting liquor, teens prefer sports bottles, water bottles and soft drink containers. Vodka looks and smells a lot like water. It can often be
carried right out in the open. Flavored sports drinks are cherished for their ability to flavor and conceal hard liquor. Just two gulps of a vodka laced sports drink is capable of raising a teens blood alcohol content above adult DWI limits.
Energy Drinks: Some commercial alcohol products come pre-mixed with caffeine. When not available, many teens mix their own liquor with one of the more popular energy drinks. In addition to the more palatable taste, the caffeine causes a spike in alertness. Though it does nothing to eliminate the dangerous effects of alcohol, the energy boost does make them appear more alert -possibly helping them slip by a chaperone. By warding off the lethargy associated with intoxication, the caffeine also induces them to drink more.
Jello: Jello shots are popular at bars and college campuses. Jello deserts have become popular among teens, because they easily conceal the ingestion of high proofliquor. The liquor is simply substituted for a portion of the water normally used to make the Jello. Once it sets, its just as potent as a shot of fire water.
(1) March 2, 2009 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.