The clothing chain Urban Outfitters is promoting a controversial new line of t-shirts with slogans such as "I Vote For Vodka" and "USA Drinking Team." 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.
A recent survey reported that one out of five teens is drinking or using drugs at school. For parents already rattled about kids and booze, it's a jolt to discover these items when fall clothes shopping with one's teen or 'tween. The majority of customers at Urban Outfitters (whose representatives could not be reached for comment) are between 18 and 24 and the second largest demographic is under 18. "Kids shouldn't be wearing these t-shirts," Jan Withers, National President of MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving), tells Shine. She explains that while MADD does not directly oppose drinking for people over the age of 21 or merchandising to adults: "Marketing [alcohol-related products] to teens is not in any way acceptable." Withers' own daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed in a car crash by an underage drinker when she was 15 years old.
Janet Evans, spokesperson for dontserveteens.gov, the Federal Trade Commission's program to prevent underage drinking, says she is disturbed by the shirts, but tells Shine, "You can't pull them from outlets." They are protected under laws that allow the promotion of branded merchandise. Evans's particular concern when it comes to underage alcohol use is graduation rates. "We need more research on drop out rates associated with teens and drinking," she tells Shine. "The numbers are appalling."
Withers thinks that t-shirts such as the ones sold by Urban Outfitters are a form of silent peer pressure but also sees a silver lining. "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."
What's your opinion? Is merchandise such as these t-shirts simply funny or a dangerous influence? Please let us know in the comments below.