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The Vodka Cruiser company argues that their “products are not designed, marketed or priced in any way which is consistent with the targeting of young people or young girls… these products have been designed as a “little luxury” convenience for middle aged Australians who drink in moderation.” The packaging, product, and marketing images of Vodka Cruiser give reason to believe that their statement is misinformed, let alone the statistics and figures focussing on the alcohol consumption among young girls and the impact of the introduction of alcoholic RTD beverages.
Many argue in response to any kind of alcohol ban that prohibition is not the answer to curb binge drinking. However in the case of alcopops, removing them from the New Zealand market where the consumer is largely young, female and unaware of the danger they present can only have a positive result.
Alcopops are a drink perfectly formed to attract a young consumer. Their bright colours, appealing flavours and slick marketing strategies target young customers, while their sugar/artificial sweetener and alcohol content presents a dangerous concoction. They lure young people into binge drinking habits, and that is why they should be banned in New Zealand.
The ‘Sugar Free’ range targets young women even more specifically as the most image and weight conscious demographic. On the Vodka Cruiser website, these drinks are marketed as “the answer for those who look to balance great times with well being… giving women what they want.” Marketing artificially sweetened drinks as something that will improve your well being may cause young, body conscious women to feel comfortable drinking more as they do not have to worry about the sugar content.
Artificial sweeteners have been found to cause alcohol to hit the bloodstream faster, causing a higher breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) than when a drink is sweetened with sugar. Researchers from the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia conducted a study on eight young men to observe the effects of artificial sweeteners and alcohol. The results found that the artificially sweetened alcoholic drink left their stomachs faster than the sugar sweetened drink (21 minutes vs 36 minutes) along with a higher blood alcohol concentration (0.05 vs 0.03).
This causes the individual to get drunk faster, increasing their BrAC. Marketing these drinks as a health conscious choice encourages a greater consumption without the ‘worry’ of weight gain, when in reality the alcohol content is going to have a greater impact on the individual. This concoction of marketing and the dangers of artificial sweeteners put young women, as the primary consumer of ‘diet’ drinks, at an increased risk of problems associated with “acute alcohol intoxication.” This is another reason why artificially sweetened alcopops should be banned in New Zealand along with their sugar sweetened counterpart.
Each Vodka Cruiser has about 25g of carbohydrate and can be interpreted as about 25 g of added sugar, as pure vodka does not contain any carbohydrates.
Our body considers alcohol to be a toxin, and is prioritised to be processed by the liver. This occupies the liver and means it is not able to respond to an increase in insulin levels by processing the glucose in our blood stream and storing it effectively. The sugar in a Vodka Cruiser adds to our blood glucose levels thus increasing the amount of insulin released. Insulin levels will continue to increase as more glucose enters the bloodstream with the balance easily becoming unequal, particularly in diabetics. When too much insulin is released, the body becomes vulnerable to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), causing tiredness and feeling lightheaded among much more serious side effects. Consuming sugary alcopops effectively doubles susceptibility to a spike in insulin. On repetitive consumption, this risk heightens as the liver is consistently having to process the alcohol, rather than process and store glucose. For the 2,500 young people (aged 0-18) with type 1 diabetes and over 200 with type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia is a significant concern.
Not only does the sugar content attract young palettes, but it can cause a dangerous spike in insulin levels when consumed in alcohol. This is another reason why New Zealand should ban alcopops, as such a toxic combination of alcohol and sugar lures in young drinkers and can have serious effects on the body.
The Vodka Cruiser brand is an example of alcopops being marketed to a young, female consumer, a demographic vulnerable to excess alcohol consumption and the astute marketing tactics of big businesses. Their coloured liquid sets the beverage apart, appearing ‘intended’ for younger people rather than a more ‘grown up’ alcoholic drink. The sweet flavour disguises the taste of the alcohol making it easier to drink in repetitive, large quantities, introducing young consumers to binge drinking habits. Each 4.6% Vodka Cruiser contains one standard drink, meaning more than four of these on a single occasion is classed as binge drinking in women.
The Vodka Cruiser website bombards you with illustrations in predominantly pink and purple. The images throughout depict smiling, pretty young women with only one male DJ depicted. The slogan “Where vodka goes to get ready“sits above the statement, “We all know that sometimes the best memories are made before the night even starts… get the party started at your place.” Pre-loading is more common in women than men, and this slogan encourages an already predominantly female group to continue engaging in such a dangerous practise. Dr Paul Quigley from the emergency department at Wellington Hospital found that the majority of alcohol was consumed before heading to an event in 75% of alcohol related emergency cases.
In an Australian study, alcohol related deaths had increased by 37% among young women and decreased by 17% among young men over the two periods, 1996 to 2000 and 2001 to 2005. These periods coincide with the introduction of the alcopop in the mid 1990’s and thus is a main factor on the increase in female fatalities.
This information forms a strong argument against the marketing and consumption of alcopops and thus give significant reason why they should be banned in New Zealand. It is clear that they target a young, female demographic, and encourage consumption due to their sweet taste.
An alcopop is a form of an RTD (ready to drink) beverage. A popular example is Vodka Cruiser, a brand I will be focussing on. Alcopops are sweetened, flavoured and and often coloured alcoholic beverages packaged in small bottles or cans. They present an issue in New Zealand society as they are marketed to a young, mainly female audience. The combination of sugar and alcohol can put the body at risk of hypoglycemia, and they often contain artificial sweeteners which speeds up the effects of alcohol on the body. These factors provide convincing evidence that alcopops should be banned in New Zealand as they present a significant threat to society.