Some residents and organizations in central Vermont are objecting to radio ads by Jay Peak in which a 9-year-old girl talks about drinking beer.
The ads are part of the resort’s “Relive New Moments” campaign. In them, the child says, “What happened to us? Remember? We were going to take charge this winter. We were going to ski and ride and play in the snow, a lot of snow. The most snow anywhere. We were going to go to concerts and eat more poutine and less fiber. We were going to drink Tram Ale, learn to surf inside a big water park, then drink more Tram Ale.”
Jay Peak Tram Ale is a beer brewed by the Long Trail Brewing Co.
Berlin resident Mary Kay Commins said she first heard the ad about a month ago.
“I honestly don’t know what the point of the ad is, as far as what the (child’s) role in it is,” she said. “All I’m hearing is these are kids saying they want to drink beer and vow to drink more beer.”
Commins said she was sitting in her car with her 14-year-old twins waiting for the school bus Thursday listening to a local radio station when the ad came on again. Commins had told her children about the ad, but she said her kids may have thought she was exaggerating until they heard it for themselves. She said both her children were surprised by the ad and thought it wasn’t right.
Commins said she doesn’t understand why the resort would use an ad in which kids talk about alcohol given the state’s substance abuse issues.
“In light of addictions that are plaguing Vermont right now, I think it’s inappropriate to use children to sell alcohol in an ad that’s selling family fun destinations,” Commins said.
She was alluding to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s State of the State address last month in which he said the state is facing a rising tide of opiate addiction and drug-related crime spreading across the state.
JJ Toland, the director of communications for the resort, said the ads aren’t about condoning children drinking alcohol, but about the 9-year-old inner child of a 40-year-old woman who is reflecting back and realizing it’s time to be young and fun again.
He said the resort hasn’t heard any of the concerns Commins expressed over the ad and that all of the feedback has been positive.
However, Ann Gilbert, director of the nonprofit substance abuse prevention organization Central Vermont New Directions Coalition, agreed with Commins. Gilbert said she heard about the ad a couple of weeks ago when she was contacted by the Department of Health, which she said had been contacted by some community members who had concerns about the ad.
Gilbert said her organization has worked for the past 15 years to decrease underage drinking. Part of the way it battles underage drinking is by asking stores to eliminate or reduce their alcohol advertising and to move beer away from the milk cooler.
“Statistics have shown that the more exposure (children) have to alcohol advertising, the more likely they are to start drinking at an earlier age,” she said.
Surveys show that underage drinking is declining.
According to a 2013 study by the Department of Health on risky behavior by students in middle and high school, among 14,639 middle school students surveyed, 18 percent reported drinking more than a few sips of alcohol, down from 22 percent in 2011. Thirty-eight percent of the middle schoolers perceived alcohol to be easy to obtain, down from 41 percent in 2011.
Among the 21,746 high school students surveyed, 59 percent said they had ever drunk alcohol, down from 62 percent in 2011, and 33 percent said they had had a drink in the past 30 days, down from 35 percent.
Those numbers aren’t eye popping, but Gilbert said the effort has been years in the making because in 1993, 53 percent of high school students said they had had a drink of alcohol in the past 30 days.
Gilbert fears Jay Peak’s ad may help undue that work.
“I think Jay Peak is a fabulous resort in our state,” she said. “I think they have a lot going for them, and I think it’s essential that Jay Peak have personal relationships with its customers. … I hope that once they realize that this ad is misleading, maybe uncomfortable, that I would hope that they would make the right decision to pull the ad and find different ways to appropriately promote their resort and their product of Tram Ale without it crossing this line.”
Toland said the resort has no plans to stop running the ads or to change them in any way.
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