100,000 Beer Commercials

“By the time kids are 18, they will have seen 100,000 beer ads” says the first lady of Oregon, Mary Oberst.

Not so. Ms. Oberst perpetuates an old myth that refuses to die because it serves the needs of those who wish to alarm the public. According to the myth, the average young person in the U.S will have seen 100,000 beer commercials between the ages of two and 18. But just think --- sixteen years or about 5,844 days occur between a person's second and eighteenth birthday. To see 100,000 beer commercials in that period, a person would have to see an average of more than seventeen a day! Common sense alone should have been enough to dispel the myth. But this clearly absurd statistic is repeated over and over.

How can we trust anyone who uses such obviously false “facts”? We apparently can’t, as seen in the rest of her article, “Alcohol use among teens is epidemic in Oregon.” The piece is full of dubious assertions and clearly illogical and false or misleading conclusions.

Not only does the first lady perpetuate myths, but she’s also apparently unaware of the extensive research from around the world demonstrating how we can reduce alcohol abuse. Many groups around the world have learned how to consume alcohol widely with almost no problems. Those familiar to most Americans include Italians, Jews, and Greeks. The success of such groups has three parts: 1) beliefs about the substance of alcohol, 2) the act of drinking, and 3) education about drinking.

In these successful groups:

  1. The substance of alcohol is seen as neutral. It is neither a terrible poison nor is it a magic substance that can transform people into what they would like to be
  2. The act of drinking is seen as natural and normal. While there is little or no social pressure to drink, there is absolutely no tolerance for abusive drinking
  3. Education about alcohol starts early and starts in the home. Young people are taught -- through their parents' good example and under their supervision -- that if they drink, they must do so moderately and responsibly. They realize that it’s better to learn how to drink in the parents’ house than in the fraternity house.

Although well meaning, the first lady’s alarmist piece almost certainly contributes more to the problem than to the solution of underage alcohol abuse.


  • Oberst, Mary. Alcohol use among teens is epidemic in Oregon. The Oregonian, 4-07-04.