Although many moralists complain about businesses being fully willing to undermine social decencies by selling whatever people will buy, without reference to the messages those products and services may send, in reality it’s the culture that drives people’s choices.
Businesses, after all, sell what people will buy. That’s what they’re for. They try everything, and they produce more of what sells. That’s only common sense.
Thus the latest infamy: liquor flasks blatantly fashioned to appeal to teenage girls. Groups that fight against teenage drinking are calling on a Florida-based company to stop making and selling liquor flasks sporting feminine designs clearly meant to attract teenage girls, the Chicago Sun-Times notes:
Icing by Claire’s, a subsidiary of tween accessory shop chain Claire’s Stores Inc., sells flasks printed with girl-friendly designs, chains and charms, raising concerns of groups who say having the flasks in stores that target girls as young as 17 indicates an acceptance of underage drinking.
"Anything that promotes the perception that alcohol use is acceptable with young people is really disturbing," said Elizabeth Nelson, community health specialist at the Lake County Health Department. We need to give consistent messages that alcohol use is not allowed and that it’s illegal at their age."
Youth are increasingly choosing harder liquor, such as rum and tequila, over beer and wine to facilitate getting drunk quicker, Nelson said.
Girls, in particular, are drinking more and at younger ages, said Janet Williams, co-chairman of the Illinois Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, which fired off a letter this week to Claire ‘s, asking it to the stop the practice. "In many cases, the girls are outdrinking the boys, putting themselves at greater risks," she said.
One thing that these young ladies are definitely putting themselves at great risk of is pregnancy, a direct result of the very thing that makes alcohol so popular among teenagers: the boys want to get the girls drunk so that they’ll be more compliant, and the girls want the boys to like them.
The labels on the flasks make it clear that they’re for storing alcohol, the story notes, and that innocent beverages with acidic content, such as fruit juices, will actually harm the containers. Thus there can be no doubt about what they’re for. And it is certainly true that girls are drinking much more alcohol than in previous decades, the story notes:
In the 1960s, about 7 percent of 10- to 14-year-old girls used alcohol; by the early [2000s], about 31 percent did so, a federal study found.
One can surely consider the Claire’s people to be rather vile for taking advantage of such an awful situation, but the flasks are just a symptom of the real problem. It’s a cultural failure, not a business one.
The nation’s vast and picturesque parade of moralists would do well to remember this when they leap onto their high horses to blame business for everything that’s wrong with society—and I’m talking about you, all you American paleocons, Crunchy cons, and the entire U.S. left, you who would gladly destroy commerce for nothing.
The real disgrace is in the fact that teenage and preteen girls increasingly feel the urge to get drunk, and are able to do so without their parents, their peers (as their girlfriends fail to steer their friends away from flirting with disaster), or the culture forcefully advising them otherwise.
—S. T. Karnick