It’s Hard to End Underage Drinking While Promoting Alcohol Consumption

Picture yourself at age 16. Now picture your parents giving you a stern talking-to about the dangers of alcohol abuse. “Drinking before you’re 21 is wrong. It’s dangerous and illegal,” they say. “You could hurt yourself and others.” They pause for a beat. “But FYI, drinking is super fun, all the cool people are doing it, and it’s AWESOME!!”

It would be confusing, to say the least. It’s also contradictory, misleading, and undoubtedly ineffective at dissuading most teenagers from drinking.

And yet this is, in a nutshell, the mission of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. On the one hand they work to regulate and enforce Pennsylvania’s liquor laws, and on the other they advertise and promote alcohol consumption. They even develop and promote their own brands of government wine.

The PLCB’s dual mission has been glaringly obvious this month.  In early September, the PLCB announced the awarding of more than $2 million in grants to 61 municipalities, schools, and agencies that were deemed to be “working to prevent underage and dangerous alcohol use.” And just last week, the PLCB announced their 22nd annual children’s Alcohol Awareness Poster Contest, again to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.

These initiatives could ring noble and true if it weren’t for the fact that this is the same agency using pop culture figures like Ghostbusters actor Dan Aykroyd and singer Christina Milian to promote wine, airing alcohol commercials on Pandora, and advertising with the Philadelphia Eagles—all which reach the same young audiences to whom they preach the dangers of drinking.

Teenagers wouldn’t trust parents with such mixed messages, just as taxpayers have tired of the PLCB’s double talk. Let the PLCB focus on doing one mission well—regulating and enforcing alcohol consumption—instead of misleading the audience it intends to reach.