Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad MADD Makes Us Sad

In a press release on September 19th, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) introduced a bizarre new product line – non-alcoholic wines, frozen drinks, and beers.

According to the press release, the US products are going to be based on similar beverages being developed by MADD Canada. Here’s what MADD’s CEO, Chuck Hurley, had to say: "What's important to us is that a designated driver should be sober — not just the least drunk… So a virgin cocktail perhaps would be a little more festive than just a club soda and lime and allow the person to participate in the festivities but be the sober driver to get people home."

Wait, what? It almost sounds like MADD is saying that to be included in the party, you have to at least look like you’re drinking alcohol. Since in Maine, only those over 21 can buy imitation liquor, one could reasonably assume that MADD’s “mocktails” are intended for adults. But what’s wrong with a soda, punch, or a smoothie? Apparently they’re not “festive” enough.

Are you confused yet? We are. Aren’t we trying to instill youth with the self confidence and social skills they need not to make destructive decisions, like MADD’s junior partner Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)? If we expect this from a 16 year old, shouldn’t this be the norm for a 30 year old? So then why promote a product that suggests that pretending to drink “allows a person to participate in the festivities.”

MADD doesn’t offer much clarity. Here’s one of their official positions entitled No Mixed Messages: “MADD advocates elimination of any statements, slogans and other educational messages which target youth in such a way that ‘mixed messages’ about alcohol use are conveyed. Because of the '21' legal drinking age laws nationwide, messages which simply urge these youth not to drink and drive are inappropriate. Instead, messages to underage youth should convey clear ‘no use’ messages.”

In this statement, MADD advocates “clear ‘no use’ messages” for kids—and they use the same language on their "Why 21" site to talk to parents about sending mixed messages. But, with this product, MADD is still promoting the idea that adults who choose not to drink should look like they are drinking—and that festivities require at least the appearance of alcohol. How’s that for modeling responsible behavior?

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