By JANIE CORRINE & MARIA GONZALEZ
Published in June 2020 in the Questa News (pg 21)
QUESTION: What can happen when 10 teenagers get together to take a close look at alcohol advertising in Taos?
ANSWER: A lot!
It started last year when Taos Alive Youth Coalition member teen participant, Amy Lewis and Taos Alive staff members Alana Lee and Cassidy Richison took a close look at alcohol advertising at 26 restaurants, bars, gas stations, and liquor stores along the Paseo del Pueblo in Taos.
It was eye-opening, for sure! Amy and Alana converted the photos they took from this environmental survey into a slideshow. The result is a dramatic display of alcohol-branded neon signs, umbrellas, sandwich boards, wall signs, and more.
On April 8th, Amy presented the slideshow to members of the Active 8, the Vida del Norte Drug Free Youth Coalition from the Questa area. The group has been very active (hence the name!) in raising awareness and preventing substance abuse in our local communities. Amy, who had never met the other teens, conducted the online training like a pro and together the group became more enlightened about the extent of alcohol advertising right here in their own backyard.
One of Amy’s insights from doing the overview of advertising was her realization of the effect that alcohol advertising has on youth. “When we don’t notice
the number of signs, we’re not aware. It’s desensitizing us. It becomes a norm.” The Active 8 Questa teens agreed.
They spoke about alcohol-branded items in their homes and other ways they are exposed to alcohol advertising without
being aware of it. Amy noted, “The content is getting into your head anyway, and you can’t address it until you really notice it.”
One teen stated that “to sell alcohol it’s made to look fun and glamorous. It’s never acknowledged that it could be dangerous.”
By the end of the power-packed hour, these teens had some clear ideas about changes they wanted to create, stating
“it is more important to have a healthy community than successful alcohol companies.”
They want to see the community open up the conversation about the acceptance of alcohol use and advertising. They believe community members “could be coached” to get used to a lower level of each.
Their take-home resolve was to “create a community mindset that makes it harder for these messages to get to people. All over town, we could reduce alcohol signage.”
In realizing that the high saturation of alcohol advertising in our visual
environment has a desensitizing effect, the two youth groups propose to make
a project of their findings. Their goal is to find ways to bring to light how advertising methods found in everyday places like restaurants, gas stations, and stores have a negative effect on youth. Although youth are the most vulnerable and possibly the target of this advertising, it affects everyone. The group hopes to work on policies to protect people from the false notion that alcohol consumption is a healthy and normal activity for them, their families, and their communities.