By David Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney and Laurie Loisel, Director of Outreach and Education, Northwestern District Attorney’s Office
Dec. 18, 2020
Dear Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen and CNN New Year’s Eve Live producers,
Your New Year’s Eve show offers excellent entertainment to launch us into a new year, and everyone knows we need that now more than ever — but it also glorifies binge drinking and overuse of alcohol, suggesting that alcohol is a necessary ingredient to letting loose and having fun. We ask you to rethink this show once and for all in light of the fact that our country is in the midst of a well-documented addiction crisis that has enormous public health consequences.
Your show portrays Andy egging Anderson on, over the course of the evening encouraging more and more drinking, taking increasing numbers of shots of alcohol as the hours tick closer to midnight. You hand off to other locations where other television journalists are also imbibing to excess. Peer pressure and misguided efforts to fit in are among the reasons young people begin drinking when their brains are still developing, and because their brains are still developing, they are vulnerable to the impact of substances in a way that the adult brain simply is not. Your show sends out a message loud and clear and damaging: the way to have fun is to drink to excess; that it’s really cool to drink too much.
Television personalities, especially people who anchor news shows, are trusted figures in our country. Like it or not, you are role models. This behavior is not something we want other adults, and certainly not teenagers, to emulate.
The toll excessive alcohol use takes on our nation is nothing to joke about. Some 37 million adults binge drink once a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which the CDC defines as is seven or more drinks. By that measure, what you all do on your New Year’s Eve broadcast is binge drink, though you may think otherwise. The CDC attributes 95,000 deaths a year to excessive alcohol use. One in every ten deaths annually in our country is attributed to overuse of alcohol.
The National Institutes of Health reports that 14 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder and 414,000 youth between 12-17 suffer from alcohol use disorder. Alcohol-related driving crashes led to 9,967 motor vehicle fatalities in 2014, according to the NIH.
The consequences of youth alcohol consumption are even more devastating because substance use while the brain is still developing can alter the pathways in the brain to such a degree that it can lead to life-long addiction issues.
Now more than ever, watching our trusted news figures binge drinking on national television is disheartening and alarming. Much has been reported in recent months about the pandemic’s impact on mental health, suicide rates, alcohol consumption. We know more people are drinking more and that some people in recovery have relapsed. Also this year, more young people, concerned about the plight of our democracy have turned to news shows like Anderson Cooper 360 to keep abreast of the news.
They look up to you. Don’t squander that admiration by engaging in behavior we have for years been trying to get frat houses to stop.
– Dear Pandemic’s Question and Answer on binge drinking during COVID.
– Tips for Discussing Underage Drinking with Teenagers from Partnership to End Addiction
– Get the Talk. They Hear You mobile app and learn more about talking with kids and teens about alcohol.