Center for Science in the Public Interest Alcohol Policies Project




Produced by the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington Report provides online information and updates about federal and state alcohol-policy issues, including alcohol advertising and marketing, labeling, product development, taxation, and industry political and commercial initiatives.  Washington Report also provides action alerts to inform advocates of opportunities to promote and influence pro-health alcohol policies.

In this Edition:


Federal Policy Update
  • NAS Underage Drinking Prevention Study

  • Report on CPAP's December 3rd Meeting

  • ATF Reorganization

  • ATF Rejects CSPI Warning Label Petition

  • Noteworthy: Alcohol Policy Champion Retires

Alcohol Policies Project Advocacy News
  • Selected Alcohol Tax Increases and Fees Proposed around the Nation (as of January 14, 2003)

  • Victory in TV Ad Campaign

Industry Watch
  • Selling Sunday Sales to States

  • Miller Beer Flexes its Political Muscle

  • What the Industry Says about...2003

  • Ad of the Month

Other News
  • Mark Your Calendars for Alcohol Policy XIII !



Federal Policy Update


NAS Underage Drinking Prevention Study

The committee of experts appointed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to develop a cost-effective national strategy to prevent underage drinking held two public meetings during the fall of 2002.  See the NAS Project Website [].


On October 10-11, 2002, the committee convened experts who presented a series of commissioned papers on various underage drinking prevention strategies.  On November 18, 2002, the committee held a public hearing at which witnesses from the alcoholic-beverage industry, public health, prevention, law enforcement, advertising, and higher education fields provided formal comments and recommendations on the scope, focus, and direction of the study and its outcomes.


Alcoholic-beverage industry trade associations, including the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the Beer Institute, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association (WSWA) have expressed concerns about the study, calling the appointed panel of experts "skewed."


According to NBWA spokesperson Craig Pursuer, the 12-person panel is "dominated by outspoken public health advocates."  Industry lobbyists reportedly secured letters from 14 Members of Congress, recommending six industry-friendly candidates to "lend balance" to the panel, but none were named to serve on the committee.  Industry trade groups additionally sent joint and individual letters to the study director, complaining that the composition of the committee lacks fairness and balance, and objecting to the inclusion of tax-related policies in the scope of the study.


Witnesses from the public health and prevention community included MADD, the AMA, CSPI, and Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free.  These groups urged the committee to emphasize environmental approaches to reduce the availability, access, and appeal of alcohol to young people, including increases in excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and alcohol advertising reforms.  Other organizations, including the National Parent Teachers Association and the Consumer Federation of America, submitted written testimony.  CSPI urged the committee to recommend establishing a National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking, similar to current federal efforts to prevent illicit drug use among youth.  Read CSPI's testimony [].


Alcoholic-beverage industry representatives argued that the underage drinking prevention strategy should draw on the industry's vast experience with prevention programs and public awareness campaigns.  Committee Chair Richard Bonnie asked industry representatives to submit any available evaluations that have been done on the effectiveness of their programs.


The NAS study is due to be completed in May or June 2003.  Based on the content and direction of that report, the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems (CPAP) will plan a media event to publicize its findings and will work with Congressional allies to develop legislation to implement the study's recommendations.


Report on CPAP's December 3rd Meeting

The Coalition for Prevention of Alcohol Problems ( CPAP) met on December 3rd to discuss alcohol policy issues and the 108th Congress.  The coalition agreed to continue working on the same three primary issues it covered in the 107th Congress:

  1. advocating alcohol advertising reforms

  2. opposing alcohol tax cuts

  3. pursuing legislation to implement a national media campaign to reduce underage drinking.

Washington-based CPAP members will begin meeting with committee staff in January on tax and advertising issues, and CSPI will issue action alerts on those two issues.  The coalition and its Hill allies will work on the introduction of new legislation to implement the recommendations in the NAS report to be released in May or June 2003.


CSPI is presently updating the list of some 120 organizations which have signed on as CPAP participants.  Please visit the CPAP webpage [] to revise your organization's membership information or to join CPAP.


ATF Reorganization

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, passed before adjournment of the 107th Congress, splits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into two parts, each residing in different departments.  The new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE), under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, will cover the criminal aspects of alcohol and tobacco issues.  The Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will remain within the Treasury Department, regulating and overseeing taxation, labeling, and advertising of alcoholic beverages.


This reorganization received immediate praise from representatives of the alcoholic-beverage industry.  Bobby Koch, Senior Vice President of the Wine Institute, said, "We've always been interested in separating ourselves from bombs and arson and illegal activity.  We did not feel we should be transferred to the Justice Department or Homeland Security."


ATF Rejects CSPI Warning Label Petition

On November 14, 2002, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) notified CSPI that it rejected a petition to improve the current legally-mandated health warning labels on all alcoholic-beverage containers.  ATF gave eight specific reasons to reject the petition, relying on opinion survey data, public comments from various sources (most of them from the alcoholic-beverage industry), and an imperfect cost-benefit analysis to avoid requiring label improvements.  The petition, originally filed on November 17, 1999 by CSPI, four members of Congress, and more than one hundred-twenty other organizations, had been supported by public opinion research showing that the current design of warning labels fails to attract the attention of consumers.


Ironically, in its November 2002 newsletter, ATF recognized "an increase in the number of [applications for new label approval]…that fail to comply with the mandatory Health Warning Statement requirements."  ATF then identified "a few common mistakes" -- exactly those about which the petition had complained.  ATF will be proceeding on a case by case approach in reviewing labels.



CSPI is now collecting alcoholic-beverage labels that have badly-placed, hard to notice or illegible warnings.  If you see any, please send us a picture or tell us the name of the product, size of the bottle, flavor (if applicable), where and when you saw the label (see contact information at the end of this newsletter).  Thank you!


Noteworthy: Alcohol Policy Champion Retires

Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), for 30 years a staunch advocate of alcoholic-beverage warning labels, retired from the Senate at the end of the 107th Congress.  He led the legislative battle for the Alcohol Beverage Labeling Act of 1988 and was a principal proponent of the Sensible Advertising and Family Education (SAFE) Act of 1993.  We sincerely thank him for his efforts on alcohol policy and wish him well in his retirement.




Alcohol Policies Project Advocacy News


We would like to thank those of you who sent letters to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue expressing your concerns about liquor advertising during NFL telecasts and in football stadiums.  Although the form response from the Commissioner's office was a disappointment, we will continue to work to end the expansion of alcohol advertising by the NFL and plan to expand our efforts in the future.


Select Alcohol Tax Increases and Fees Proposed around the Nation (as of January 14, 2003)

California  Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) has introduced legislation in the California General Assembly that would impose a nickel per drink fee on wholesalers of alcoholic beverages.  The revenue would provide $500 million in funding for emergency and trauma centers in the state.  The bill defines a drink as 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or five ounces of wine.


Connecticut  Governor John Rowland (R) called a special session of the legislature to deal with the state's deficit.  Among other items in the budget, the Governor seeks to double the state's alcohol excise taxes.  The proposal would generate $38 million, according to the Governor's office.


Nebraska  Senator Dave Landis (D), Chairman of the state Senate Revenue Committee, has introduced legislation that would increase the alcohol excise tax rates to raise $10 million annually for the general fund.  The proposed tax increases are as follows: beer from $0.23 to $0.36 per gallon; wine from $0.75 to $1.20 per gallon; and liquor from $3.00 to $4.75 per gallon.


Nevada  The Governor's Task Force on Tax Policy recommended a substantial increase in the state's alcohol excise taxes.  If the recommended actions take effect, excise tax rates, last raised 20 years ago, would increase approximately 89 percent.  Read the Governor's Task Force on Tax Policy Final Report [].


Ohio  Governor Robert Taft (R), facing a growing deficit (as high as $10 billion), apparently will advance an increase in alcohol excise taxes to bring in needed revenue for the state.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy (D) proposed a 10 percent sales tax on all alcoholic beverages sold within the city as a part of a larger plan to raise needed revenue.  Pittsburgh faces a $60 million 2003 deficit.  The proposed sales tax, which has already passed the City Council, would raise an estimated $10 million in revenue.  In order for it to go into effect, it must be affirmed by the state legislature.  The city has a strong supporter of higher alcohol taxes in new Governor Ed Rendell (D).  As a past mayor of Philadelphia, he successfully implemented a similar sales tax on alcoholic beverages in that city.


South Carolina  Senator Ralph Anderson (D) introduced legislation to increase the excise taxes on beer, wine, and liquor.  The proposed legislation would raise current tax rates as follows: beer from $0.77 to $1.54 per gallon; wine from $0.90 to $1.80 per gallon; and liquor from $2.72 to $5.44 per gallon.  Fifty percent of revenues would be dedicated to health care for low income families and 50 percent to the state's general fund.


Wyoming  The state with the lowest beer tax looks to increase its tax for the first time since 1934.  The Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee of the Wyoming Legislature has drafted legislation that would raise the excise tax on beer from $0.02 per gallon to $0.08 per gallon.  The increase would put Wyoming on par with Colorado, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.  Only beer states Wisconsin and Missouri have a lower tax rate, at $0.06 per gallon.


Victory in TV Ad Campaign

CSPI joined with the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association (NLLEA) [] and other organizations in challenging a TV ad for Boston Beer Company's Sam Adams Light Beer.  As a result of the widespread protest, the company pulled the ad off of TV and the Sam Adams Light website.


The commercial, "Noise," depicted a police officer responding to a complaint about a loud house party.  The partiers, several of whom look under 21 years old, appear intimidated by the police officer and hide their beers.  But one young man, staggering from the kitchen into the living room, emits a tarzan-like yell.


The content of the ad contradicts the Beer Institute's voluntary Advertising and Marketing Code, which suggests that beer ads should not "depict situations where beer is being consumed … in any way illegally" and not "portray persons in a state of intoxication."


We thank Boston Beer for helping to strengthen the case for government regulation of alcohol advertising and marketing!




Industry Watch


Selling Sunday Sales to States

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has been hard at work trying to expand liquor sales to Sundays in states that do not now permit such sales.  One rationale offered: more revenue to offset state budget deficits.  This strategy also diverts attention from consideration of alcohol excise tax increases, which, in many states, are long overdue.


In 2002, Oregon and Pennsylvania approved Sunday liquor sales; another proposal is now under consideration in New York.  Other states targeted by the industry include: Virginia, Washington state, and Massachusetts.



If you live in a state that currently bans liquor sales on Sundays, find out if the industry is pushing for Sunday sales.  Contact your state legislator and share your opinion about expanded access to booze.  To discuss Sunday sales and actions you can take, contact Bill England [].

Miller Beer Flexes its Political Muscle

The Miller Brewing Company, a part of SABMiller, has set up a political action committee (PAC) to make contributions to candidates running for national office.


Political lobbyist Tim Scully, who has been working for the Milwaukee-based brewer, will become Vice-President for corporate affairs.  He announced that the Miller Brewing PAC would begin seeking donations from employees in the New Year (, 12/13/02).

Read the previous Washington Report article on PACs [].


What Industry Says about:


"Here's my prediction for 2003: More and more broadcasters -- independents, affiliates and, yes, networks -- will air responsible distilled-spirits ads.  It just makes good business sense.  Spirits are legal, tasteful, broadly accepted by the public, and a great source of revenue for the broadcast industry."  (Peter Cressey, DISCUS President in Broadcasting & Cable, 11/18/02).

Ad of the Month

For $9.95, anyone can purchase a talking Simpsons Beer Bottle Opener through the internet.  We found this product in a random pop-up ad on the internet.  While The Simpsons appeals to a diverse audience, many underage people also watch, and other ads on the show are designed with kids in mind.  The Center on Alcohol Marketing to Youth (CAMY) [] reports that ads for beer frequently air during The Simpsons, which appears at 8:00 PM Sundays on Fox TV.  Oh, Homer!



Other News

Mark Your Calendars for Alcohol Policy XIII !

Alcohol Policy XIII

Preventing Alcohol Problems Among Youth: Policy Approaches

Environment and Accountability: Who Is Responsible?

Thursday - Sunday, March 13 - 16, 2003

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The Alcohol Policy Conference series provides a unique forum for researchers, community advocates, and public officials to convene and exchange findings, explore evidence-based solutions, and consider adoption of laws aimed at minimizing risks associated with alcohol use. This year's gathering focuses on problems of illegal and high-risk alcohol consumption among 13 - 25 year olds. Further information available at the conference website [].



Contact Information:

For more information, please contact us at

Center for Science in the Public Interest
Alcohol Policies Project
1220 L St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC  20009
Phone: (202) 332-9110
Fax: (202) 265-4954

Washington Report has been produced with the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.