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08-02 Cocktail how-to videos can be a recipe for alcohol abuse

Cocktail how-to videos can be a recipe for alcohol abuse

Most of us have had it happen – where we weren’t even thinking about trying something until we saw a do-it-yourself video or photo slide share – then we’re suddenly consumed with the urge to experiment. This can be as innocuous as a yummy dinner recipe replicated or a funny story of a “Pinterest Fail.”

But when social media ads illustrating the endless ways to make “must-have” seasonal cocktails or alcohol-infused party dishes create a sudden thirst for alcohol products, it may instead be a foothold into heavy alcohol use.

Power of suggestion

As mentioned in a previous article on links between teen drinking and alcohol use, the power of suggestion may prove problematic.

“Whether these advertisements directly contribute to underage drinking remains a mystery, however, since it’s difficult (if not impossible) to tease out the media influence from peer pressure, societal norms and other factors … may convince teenagers to start drinking.”

A meta-analysis published this spring entitled, “Industry Self-regulation of Alcohol Marketing: A Systematic Review of Content and Exposure Research,” analyzed nearly 100 other studies. Researchers made noteworthy conclusions on data related to marketing on social media.

“Violations of the content guidelines within self-regulated alcohol marketing codes are highly prevalent in certain media. Exposure to alcohol marketing, particularly among youth, is also prevalent. Taken together, the findings suggest that the current self-regulatory systems that govern alcohol marketing practices are not meeting their intended goal of protecting vulnerable populations.”

Alcohol advertising, social media and minors

Arguably the frontrunner of all how-to sites, Pinterest, currently reports 79 percent of millennial Pinterest users take advantage of the DIY images to teach them how to do something.

According to data compiled from an advertisers That Agency:

  • Twitter has an age-screening feature requiring users enter their date of birth in order to follow a particular alcohol brand ad
  • YouTube puts the ball in the brand’s court; giving the option to require date of birth input or flat-out restrict alcohol channel visitation to registered US account holders who under 21
  • According to 2015 data, Pinterest doesn’t allow alcohol brands to create Promoted Pins, which are paid ads
  • As of 2015, Instagram and Pinterest don’t verify user’s age, but alcohol brands are restricted from two-way conversations with users. The two can, however, comment back and forth on the brands’ posts

This doesn’t stop an adolescent from simply entering a qualifying birth year.

Saleem Alhabash, Ph.D., headed a study called “Saw It on Facebook, Drank It at the Bar! Effects of Exposure to Facebook Alcohol Ads on Alcohol-Related Behaviors.” He agrees, “Even when ‘age-gating,'” as he coins it, is “enforced by alcohol marketers, they still can be exposed to alcohol ads and marketing through electronic word-of-mouth.”

Marketing versus advertising

Advertising is brand-specific selling; defined as the task of spotlighting something to the public by way of paid announcements. Marketing is more cumulative: promotion.

Online cocktail how-to videos and the like don’t necessarily push one brand. Rather they create a thirst that may not have been there previously.

Picture an adult who sees a how-to for summer sangrias on social media and thereby gets introduced to one ingredient: brandy. Now with a full bottle, he or she starts to look up other uses for the spirit and starts drinking daily to “make good use” of the purchase.

Or imagine a teenager who loves smoothies has “liked” a national smoothie retailer online. Now she catches video snippets on her social media page of delicious daiquiri blends. Alcohol never appealed to the teen before, but like this, she thinks it could be worthwhile.

These scenarios aren’t far-fetched and illustrate the subtlety with which alluring alcohol recipes open a back door to the slippery slope of consumption.

No one wakes ups and says “I’m going to turn into an alcoholic.” It happens unbeknownst, over time, with one bad decision after another. Sovereign Health in Rancho San Diego offers adolescent treatment for alcohol and other substance use, mental and eating disorders. Call our 24/7 helpline to learn more about how we can help.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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