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What Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘six-pack and cigs’ comment reveals

Global pop star Olivia Rodrigo’s comment about buying a six-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes at a gas station reveals a lot about Generation Z’s attitude to drinking. 

(Image: Olivia Rodrigo/Wikipedia)

The Driving Licence singer was shown on TikTok and across social media making the comment about turning 21 years old (and therefore legally able to purchase alcohol) at the opening night of her Guts world tour in Palm Springs, California.

@spillsesh_yt This whole thing had me like #oliviarodrigo #oliviarodrigoedit #gutstour #oliviarodrigoguts #tour #concert ♬ original sound – Spill Sesh

She said, while seated at the piano: “I went to the gas station the other day and bought a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack of beer.

“I promise I didn’t consume it, but I just bought it because I f***ing could.

“Anyway, all this to say that I think growing up isn’t so scary after all and life just kind of gets better at the end,” before performing her hit song Teenage Dream.

But the comment begs the question, why did she feel bashful about consuming the beer and cigarettes?

While other global megastars and Millennials such as like Taylor Swift are eager to be seen as passionate wine lovers — and are happily is photographed and filmed drinking — the younger generation appear more ‘alcohol-shy’.

The New Temperance

There is an important caveat to Rodrigo’s apparent reticence about not being seen to enjoy the alcohol and cigarettes she bought: her fan base is predominately younger and below the legal age of drinking, especially in the US.

But the fact Rodrigo felt the need to say “I promise, I didn’t consume it”, reveals what data already suggests. More than a third (38%) of 16-24 year olds not drinking in the UK and around a similar level at 40% in the US.

And her younger fan base would definitely associate drinking and cigarette smoking with ‘OK Boomer’ energy.

When compared to just a decade ago, the direction of travel is clear. Incredibly, a third of those who are on the cusp of legal drinking age haven’t ever tried alcohol at all.

The number of Brits who were planning to avoid alcohol rose by 10% last year, with 38% saying of 2,000 respondents to an Ocado survey stating they wouldn’t drink, which was up from 28% in 2021.

So what does this all mean for drinks businesses?

One issue is that youth drinking is in such decline that a report in The International Journal of Drug Policy suggests that “alcohol may fall down the policy agenda” – which could mean fewer, not more, new control policies.

It proposes that a drop in alcohol consumption among people aged 15-24 may precipitate a shift in attention by policy-makers from drink to other issues, while, at the same time, mean that those seeking to control the availability and promotion of alcohol will “struggle to justify” interventionist measures.

Such a paper, which focuses on drinking trends in the UK and Australia, presents an interesting picture at a time when drink is under the spotlight from institutions and agencies (such as the EU and WHO) looking to influence the marketing and pricing of alcohol in an attempt to reduce consumption across the board.


It also shows how those who are younger and drinkers habits are changing.  The latest set of data from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the UK’s love of beer has halved while wine has been on an upward trend for decades.

In terms of spirits, the popularity has remained remarkable flat, despite a huge surge in celebrity endorsements, widening offers and new products. It sits at around 24% of the share of alcohol consumed in the UK, which is similar to the level in 1980. At present, Brits will have only around 94 shots of spirits each year in total.

It would appear the TikTok generation hasn’t bought into spirits in perhaps the way brands have expected to happen.

The future

Whatever happens next is hard to predict, but it does appear the younger generation, as Rodrigo’s comment on stage illustrates, has rebelled against their parents love of vices such as alcohol and tobacco.

Whether this is a continuing decline remains to be seen, but when a pop star has to caveat their rock ‘n roll excesses, you know the times they are a changin’.

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