Well hello kitty: Are you really old enough to drink?

If you are a fan of the Hello Kitty products (the smiling kitten face icon from Japan) then you will want to know that there is now a hello Kitty brand of pink sparkling wine. Produced by the Italian wine producer Tenimenti Castelrotto in partnership with luxury goods company Camomilla, Hello Kitty spumante is currently available only in the U.S., Russia, and Singapore. According to winemaker Patrizia Torti, “’Hello Kitty … is a recognised cult fashion icon among teenagers and adults around the world.” Is Hello Kitty really grown up enough to be in the wine business? What should the minimum drinking age be anyway?

We are dealing with some pretty sticky issues here. We are conflicted about marketing alcoholic beverages to young people (not that Hello Kitty is exclusively a young brand) and there are definitely mixed mesages on drinking. In the U.S. the debate has centered around whether the legal drinking age should be 18 or 21. here’s a brief summary of the arguments:

Against lower drinking age: Teens are undergoing a multitude of physical and mental changes, combined with peer pressure and other factors, which can lead to abusive drinking patterns. Studies show that teens who drink have a greater probability of binge drinking and academic failure.

In favor of a lower drinking age: At age 18, most of the priviledges of adulthood are conferred including voting and military service. Prohibiting teens from drinking in bars, restaurants, and public locations has the effect of forcing them to drink in unsupervised places such as fraternity houses or house parties. A higher legal drinking age actually encourages abuse by sending the message that drinking conveys maturity. A lower legal age makes it less taboo and creates a more favorable environment for teaching moderation and responsible consumption. It is this failure to model healthy drinking that fosters binge drinking.

Statistics are tossed back and forth about whether traffic accidents are increased or decreased by a lower drinking age, but my personal view is that the wheels started to come off the cart when we divorced wine with dinner. There is no healthier way to consume alcohol that to make wine a food, and if you have been paying attention at all here you know that it is an impressively healthy thing indeed. The age-old European practice of serving the young people watered down wine with family meals cannot be considered by any stretch of the imagination as a step toward alcohol abuse.

But Hello Kitty, you may be a special case. Are you sweet and silly or a real grown-up drink?

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