Poison Pens and Half-full Cups

For Weekly SurgeAugust 30, 2013 

If I went on a diet and only cut out French fries from my intake, would I lose weight? No.

The decision to ban the Weekly Surge from Coastal Carolina University last week due to the content (including this column) and advertising related to alcohol has stirred up a long fought debate. Does advertising of alcohol products increase consumption among young adults?

There is ample information for both sides of this issue. Some argue that alcohol advertising has increased and consumption has decreased. While, others will put forth that a young person would never have taken a sip if not for the sensationalized advertisements. There is no factual way to argue this emotional and ethical issue. However, there is a way to debate the effectiveness of banning print advertisements and violating the First Amendment when it pertains to the persuasion of our youth.

In 2012, as reported by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, also known as the TTB, the taxes collected from alcohol, tobacco and firearms was just shy of $24 billion in the United States. These industries have an impressive impact on our lawmakers and laws in general due to the economic contribution that they provide.

The National Beer Wholesalers Association, a lobby group in Washington, D.C. , was reportedly responsible for the NCAA amending the ban of alcohol advertising in 2006 during collegiate sporting events. The fact that there is a lobby for the alcohol industry speaks volumes as to our motivation in America. Money is louder than ethics.

In our back yard, the sale of alcohol is banned from CCU’s campus during football games. However, the administration allows the consumption of alcohol up to four hours prior to kick-off as long as you are of legal drinking age and put the drink in a plastic cup. They also provide smoking areas at football games. So, students are not able to read about alcohol, but, a few Saturdays a year, they can drink for, what could be, up to 8 hours on campus. Why is it that this double standard exists between academics and athletics? Ban alcohol from tailgating and see how many people show up for the game.

We have a tendency to work hard to create a bubble around the next generation. To expose them to only positive things. While this sounds like a great plan, the technology available to young adults makes achieving this lofty goal impossible. There are liquor advertisements on Facebook, Pandora, YouTube, Yahoo, television, radio and nearly every other media platform that you can imagine. Good luck listening to popular music these days without some type of reference to alcohol. Shall we resort to the old days where rock, rap and country will become “the devil’s music”? Are we naive to the fact that print ads are, merely, the tip of the iceberg.

We need to educate our younger generations to evaluate information and make calculated decisions based on the information provided to them. I hate to say it, but, by the time most students reach the front gate of Coastal Carolina, they have already consumed alcohol. Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) reports that by the end of high school, 72 percent of students have consumed alcohol. The report excluded the population that consumed “a few sips.” In essence, three quarters of the students in high school know about and have consumed alcohol socially. Sorry CCU but you are too late to shelter a vast majority of your students in this regard. Establishing programs in our high schools would be far more beneficial than banning a cultural magazine from the student common areas at an institution of higher learning where these very issues are supposed to be studied and analyzed.

In our tourist-driven economy, alcohol plays a vital role. Our restaurants, bars and resorts rely on alcohol sales for profits and employ a large percentage of the year-round tax payers in Myrtle Beach. This very paper is available by supporting the advertisers and local businesses that sell alcohol. We have created a chain of economic support out of necessity. The Weekly Surge is not a paper strictly for CCU students. Thus, the academic responsibility of the university would be to educate, not to ban.

I would venture to argue that the beach lifestyle has some type of influence as to why students choose CCU in the first place (if you don’t believe me, check out various online rankings of U.S. party colleges). The high level of academics is, I am certain, the first consideration. However, reality dictates that a university near the beach where you only have to be 18 to get into most of the clubs at Broadway at the Beach can be very attractive to a sun burned freshmen. Your first experience away from home and you can take a short ride up U.S. 501 and be exposed to far more alcohol temptation than I am capable of writing in this column. What happens to the warm, safe bubble that we created for these students while in our class? It burst. No advertisement is more powerful than a group of peers. No picture or song or lecture can influence a person more than a real life scenario.

The amount of entertainment, cultural and local information that is put forth in this publication far exceeds the amount of alcohol advertisement. Shows, bands, restaurants, politics, news, events, jobs, apartments and many other topics are included in every edition of the Weekly Surge. We create value for anyone and everyone who reads our words. If we, as parents and educators, have done our job, a legal adult will be able to determine the information they listen to and make informed choices for their own life. If we, as adults and educators, become lazy and feel that banning information is the solution, then we are living a misguided existence of self importance where naivete governs over reality.

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