The Ethics Of Melon Heads

GENERIC Jello shots shot glass
This commentary was written by's Dick Meyer.
Jello? Through the misadventures of a local school, I've come to learn that vodka-laced Jello shooters are the pot brownies of the '00s (although I'm sure mind altering pastry still has a loyal following). Apparently, it's easy to sneak booze into parties and dances if you make lime gelatin with vodka instead of water, then cut it up into cubes and stick it in some baggies. Apparently, I'm among the last to know about this trick. If I wasn't, well, you're now duly warned.

Even if your kid wouldn't be caught dead doing actual kitchen work, danger lurks. They can get a fake id and go buy some Fuzzy Navel Zippers, the "original gelatin shot," at a liquor store. There are other flavors of Zippers manufactured by BPNC, Inc., too -- Melon Head, Blue Hawaiian and the distinguished Purple Hooter. For more information, check out their Web site.

I may be wrong, but I don't imagine many adults are interested in consuming Purple Hooter Zippers. It is illegal to sell original gelatin shooters to minors, of course. But it is not illegal to design products and advertising for people under 21 years-old. The beer and spirits industries say they don't do this. There is an industry "Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing" and the industry's trade association really does succeed at getting some companies that violate that code to pull their bad ads.

But the case of Zippers pretty quickly shows how kooky the whole business of regulating liquor marketing is in modern media America. Take the Web site: the code says "age verification mechanisms should be employed" liquor product sites. And indeed, asks when you were born. Now, go to the site and lie about your age and surf the site. Age verification? Right, dude.

Take the product. You cannot prove that Zippers or all the peach and watermelon "alcopops" and soda-flavored malt drinks on the market now are targeted at teens and underage drinkers or are intended to be "gateway" drinks. But it insults basic human intelligence to suggest they aren't. And a recent survey by the American Medical Association of kids between 12 and 18 shows 31 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys had drunk alcopops in the last six months.

The industry code, though, says that if booze marketing appears in media that can be expected to be seen by an audience that is 70 percent adult is ok, if it's not too sexed up, abusive, untrue or has some other, highly subjective, disqualifying feature.

So yes, the industry does somewhat restrict it's marketing, but it's pretty much a farce.

But here's the tricky part. Why should the liquor industry restrict its marketing at all? Why shouldn't they invent Jello shooters or even laced chocolate syrup or boozy juice boxes with Sponge Bob on them?