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Washington Report

November 2003 (corrected)

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 Developments

Advocacy News

Industry Watch



Federal Developments


Senate Committee Addresses Underage Drinking

For information related to Federal Policy, please contact Kim Miller, Manager of Federal Relations

Related Links:

CSPI's Written Testimony (PDF)

CSPI's Action Alert

On Tuesday, September 30, 2003 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions convened a hearing on underage drinking with Chairman Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) presiding.  This was the first of what we hope will be several hearings (in both the House and Senate) to consider legislative responses to the recently released National Academy of Sciences report to Congress on a national strategy to reduce underage drinking.


The panel of five invited witnesses included:  Dr. Richard J. Bonnie (who chaired the NAS committee), Patricia Kempthorne (First Lady of Idaho, representing Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free), Jeff Becker (President of the Beer Institute), Wendy Hamilton (MADD’s National President), and David DeAngelis (High School Student, North Haven, Connecticut).


Thanks to all groups and individuals who submitted written statements for the hearing record!


Although no concrete legislative proposals came out of this exploratory hearing, it was an important first step in generating debate in Congress on what can be done to combat underage drinking.  A few highlights included:

  1. In his opening statement, Senator DeWine commented that, "underage drinking has been neglected for too long," adding that "alcohol accounts for 6.5 more deaths than illicit drugs."  He stated that "[a]s a nation we have not done enough on underage drinking."  Senator Dodd added that, "To say that the numbers on underage drinking are 'staggering' does not do it justice."

  2. Idaho First Lady Patricia Kempthorne, speaking on behalf of Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free, called on the committee to: undertake a series of hearings resulting in legislative proposals; request that the Surgeon General produce an independent evaluation and "Call to Action on Childhood Drinking"; request that national surveys begin to collect data on alcohol use (including brand choice) and attitudes that include children as young as nine; and support additional funding for research, prevention, and treatment.  Mrs. Kempthorne also emphasized the need to address the social and cultural environment surrounding underage drinking.

  3. MADD strongly endorsed the NAS report, and urged action on its recommendations, including the establishment of a national media campaign to prevent underage drinking among other top priorities.

  4. In the questions and answers that followed, issues of adult responsibility, the national media campaign proposal, and advertising reform dominated the discussion.  Senator Dodd expressed exasperation with Jeff Becker's defense of the industry's advertising practices, holding up examples of youth-friendly ads to underscore his point.  Senator DeWine appealed for all parties to come together and find common ground, referring to the NAS report's recommendation for a partnership to reduce underage drinking.  Senator Dodd warned the industry to come to the table or face the consequences.

Senator DeWine repeatedly noted how under-funded federal efforts on underage drinking are, certainly in comparison with spending on prevention efforts for illicit drugs and tobacco.  He seemed interested in the NAS report's recommendation of an industry-funded independent foundation, and suggested that industry -- and maybe not taxpayers -- provide the money for a broader national underage drinking prevention effort.  Senator DeWine noted that although his subcommittee lacked jurisdiction over tax matters, he (personally) may not be opposed to tax increases on alcoholic beverages (another of the NAS report's major recommendations).


Senator DeWine concluded the hearing by saying that we clearly do not put enough of a priority on underage drinking at the federal level; that it is a major killer of young people; and that we need a renewed commitment to do much more.  He said that the committee would be discussing options for next steps.

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Update: 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Related Links:

2005 Dietary Guidelines Information

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee met on September 23 and 24 to review the 2000 Dietary Guidelines and listen to comments on them.  The Department of Health and Human Services will be accepting comments on the Guidelines throughout the deliberation process.  Future meetings are planned for January and March, with the deadline for the committee report in June.  We will pass on the specific meeting dates as soon as they are announced.


Carlos Carmargo, Jr., M.D., Dr.P.H., Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, heads the committee on alcohol consumption.


CSPI plans to submit comments to the committee in the near future.  Currently, we are satisfied with the language on alcohol consumption from the 2000 Dietary Guidelines, but we will be making recommendations to strengthen the Guideline provisions on alcohol and adolescents, alcohol and older persons, and caloric content of alcoholic beverages.  We will make them available on our website at that time.


To submit your comments:

Kathryn McMurry

HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Room 738-G, 200 Independence Ave SW

Washington, DC  20201

Email: dietaryguidelines@osophs.dhhs.gov

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Advocacy News


CSPI Launches Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV

For information related to Advocacy News, please contact Amy Gotwals, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy.

Related Links:

Campaign Website

Campaign Press Release

On November 12, college coaching legends Dean Smith, former basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, and Tom Osborne, former head coach of the University of Nebraska (and current U.S. Representative), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest launched a drive to reduce youth exposure to alcohol ads on televised sports events.  At a press event on Capitol Hill for the new Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV, the coaches, along with CSPI's Alcohol Policies Project Director George Hacker and Catherine Bath, of Security on Campus, Inc., called for colleges and universities to end alcohol ads on televised college sporting events.


Jason Boxt, of the polling firm Global Strategy Group, also joined the panel and explained data from CSPI's new national poll.  That survey found that 75% of Americans think that it is wrong for colleges to take money from beer companies for ads on their games and that 71% of Americans support a ban on all alcohol ads on televised college games.  The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) reports that there were more alcohol ads on the broadcasts of the 2002 NCAA basketball tournament than for the World Series, Super Bowl, college bowl games, and NFL Monday Night Football combined.


Later this month the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV will send "The College Commitment" to presidents and athletic directors at the more than 1200 colleges and universities in the NCAA and ask them to pledge to end alcohol ads on televised games involving their schools.  We will also ask grassroots activists, parents, and alumni to contact colleges and universities and urge officials to make the commitment to end alcohol ads.


Since September, more than 80 national, state, and local organizations have endorsed the central principles of the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV and new groups continue to join daily.


CSPI also launched the new website for the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV.  Visit www.BeerFreeSportsTV.org for more information on the Campaign, steps you can take to help get alcohol ads off televised sports, and information on how your organization can endorse the key principles of the Campaign.

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State Alcohol Tax Increases Get Boost from NAS Report

Related Links:

CSPI's Action Alert

CSPI's State Alcohol Tax Action Guide (PDF)

As noted in the September 2003 Washington Report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report to Congress on reducing underage drinking recommended that both federal and state governments raise alcohol excise taxes.  NAS based its recommendation on the evidence that raising alcohol excise tax rates "is a strategy that has strong and well-documented prevention effects on underage drinking."


Last month, CSPI started to get the word out.  We mailed a letter to every Governor encouraging him/her to seriously consider the NAS recommendation on state tax increases.  This would be a great time to contact your Governor -- to piggy-back on the CSPI letter and show that his/her constituents care about underage drinking and overwhelmingly support alcohol tax increases.


CSPI has provided several tools for activists to use the NAS report to bolster state and local efforts.


There is much work to be done, as always, but now tax increase advocates have a powerful new tool in the NAS report.  Please consider the suggestions from the action guides, as well as your own ideas, and integrate the report into your ongoing campaigns.  For example, several state-wide advocacy groups have placed letters to the editor in their local papers, praising the NAS report and promoting alcohol tax increases.  It's easier to get your letter or opinion piece placed when an issue is timely.


CSPI continues to support activists working on state tax increases, so please contact our staff if you would like assistance.  Visit our website or contact Amy Gotwals, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy, at agotwals@cspinet.org or 202-332-9110, ext. 348.

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Responding to the NAS Report: State Efforts

Related Links:

NAS Report


New Hampshire:

Here is another great idea for state activists working to reduce underage drinking, just in from New Hampshire.  A small group of New Hampshire activists is developing a state-specific strategy to reduce underage drinking as an extension of the NAS report.  In other words, they are reviewing the NAS report's recommendations vis a vis current initiatives in New Hampshire, in order to compile a baseline of where the state stands today in its prevention efforts.  This baseline report will be a tremendous tool for future advocacy campaigns in the state, and represents a very effective use of the NAS report at the state level.  Perhaps this would work in your state?



In Texas, where the legislature is in an interim year, advocates are using this time to educate decision makers at all levels.  Ellen Ward of Texans Standing Tall reports that they have distributed to policymakers (from mayors to state legislators) the executive summary of the NAS report, combined with two fact sheets customizing NAS findings with Texas statistics and highlighting the policy changes most needed in Texas.  In addition, advocates have had great success with a resolution campaign.  Influential individuals and groups (from mayors to county commissioners to the local chamber of commerce to a PTA) are asked to sign and release a resolution in support of the NAS report's findings and addressing underage drinking problems in Texas.



California advocates are also wasting no time.  Public hearings on youth alcohol problems were held in Los Angeles and Oakland in late October.  The California Alcohol Policy Reform Initiative (CAPRI), which is a state-wide coalition of organizations focusing on increasing resources for prevention and recovery services for youth with alcohol problems, organized the hearings with the assistance of state Assemblywoman Wilma Chan.  Very strong turnout, good press coverage, and another chance to focus attention on the problem of underage drinking all added up to two successful events.


NJ NCADD Press Release

New Jersey:

For a great example of how to use the NAS report to raise the issue of state alcohol tax increases, view the New Jersey chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence's (NJ NCADD) press release on the web.


Look for similar opportunities to raise the issue in your community.  Write a letter to the editor in response to local newspaper articles on underage drinking or projected state deficits.


If you have news to share regarding state alcohol excise tax or NAS report initiatives in your state, please e-mail Amy Gotwals at agotwals@cspinet.org.

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New Mexico Tackles Alcohol Tax Early; Governor Supportive

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In this case, the early bird didn't quite get the worm…but it's been spotted!  The New Mexico legislature met in late October/early November for a special session on tax reform.  Although legislators went home after passing just two bills (only one related to tax reform), the session drew lots of attention to New Mexico's need for higher alcohol taxes.


Governor Bill Richardson (D) supported a tax package that included a dime-a-drink increase in beer, wine, and liquor excise taxes.  Activists from around the state worked hard to support this proposal, hosting a press conference, lobbying legislators, and arguing persuasively that NM needs an alcohol excise tax increase to temper heavy consumption, prevent underage drinking, reduce the high rates of alcohol-related disease and death in the state, and support state coffers.  To assist this activist coalition, CSPI provided a state-specific report that analyzed consumption, revenue, and price data using several tax increase scenarios.


Of course, the alcohol industry did its best to kill the proposal.  Among other things, Anheuser-Busch's largest distributor in New Mexico put signs on delivery trucks urging beer drinkers to ask Governor Richardson to vote "no" on the increases.  Eventually, along with most major tax reform bills under consideration, legislators abandoned the alcohol tax increase bill.


Despite this result, there are encouraging signs for future movement on alcohol tax increases.  This "practice run" will benefit the state coalition when the full session starts in January.  Plus, Governor Richardson, with his support for increasing alcohol taxes, will raise the issue's profile and offer strong leadership.  He made his stance clear when he stated, "If the liquor lobby thinks they've beaten Bill Richardson, they're wrong."



Another Resource on Alcohol Tax Organizing

Related Links:

EUDL Report (PDF)

A new monograph by Tracy Enright Patterson and Susan Brittain looks at alcohol pricing and excise tax efforts as an important approach to reducing underage drinking.  Two states, New Mexico and Oregon, are profiled in the case study and offer interesting lessons for all state activists working on alcohol tax campaigns.


The main focus of the study is how Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) coordinators can appropriately support state and local alcohol tax advocacy efforts.  The report argues that EUDL coordinators have key roles to play and offers guidance on how to effectively and appropriately share information and educational resources with non-governmental advocates.

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Industry Watch


Syracuse Activist Defeats Diageo Ad Campaign

For information related to Industry Watch, please send us an email.

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Bob Pezzolesi of the Alcohol Advertising Reform Initiative (AARI) in Syracuse, NY mounted a successful campaign to remove several Diageo billboard advertisements in his community.



The ad for Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps featured three very young looking actors facing the camera blankly, holding a bottle and shot glasses of alcohol, and wearing safety goggles, a helmet, and ear protectors.  The tagline, "Be Careful," only adds to the theme of power and danger that the ad conveys.


Appalled by the billboard which appeared in four locations in Syracuse and a smaller version in a public phone kiosk, Bob filed a formal complaint with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Code Review Board.  AARI argued that the billboard violated two provisions of the DISCUS "Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing": One, the actors do not reasonably appear to be over 21 years old, and two, the safety gear, tagline, and overall impression of dangerous activity, conflicts with the provision that ads "should not promote the intoxicating effects of beverage alcohol consumption."


Within a few weeks, DISCUS found in AARI's favor and announced that the campaign would be withdrawn.  No word yet on any penalties for Goldschlager or damages paid to the community.




Marin Institute Leads Protest of Coors' Movie Promotion

Related Links:

Marin Institute Action Alerts

The Marin Institute, the California Friday Night Live Partnership, and the Youth Leadership Institute joined forces to protest the co-promotion of Coors beer and a Disney movie rated PG-13.  Ads showcasing both Scary Movie 3 and Coors beer appeared on national television, radio, and in point-of-sale displays.


At the prodding of these groups, Coors pulled the ads from television.  However, Coors should not have even aired the spots once the movie was given a rating of PG-13, claims Laurie Lieber, media advocate for the Marin Institute, especially since these ads were already released by the time the movie opened in theaters.  It seems that Coors will continue impressing young audiences: it has already publicized that it will be in Scary Movie 4.


Mary Engle, Associate Director of advertising practices of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), wants to bring this case before the Advertising Pledge Program of the Better Business Bureau.

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Miller Time is Lobbying Time

Related Links:

AP Article

Center for Responsive Politics

Political Money Line

In early October, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that Miller Brewing Company spent $1.84 million to lobby Congress from July 2002 to July 2003.  The brewer is ranked second in national beer sales, after Anheuser-Busch and ahead of Coors Brewing Company, but outspent them handily: A-B spent $1.49 million and Coors only $360,000.


Miller supported legislation to rollback the beer tax to its pre-1991 level and combated a bill to create a national media campaign to prevent underage drinking.  None of the bills moved.  In addition, Miller fought successfully to deny a tax credit to distilled spirits wholesalers.


We expect that the lobbying spending will only increase in the upcoming year, in response to the NAS' recent recommendation to raise taxes as a means to reduce underage drinking.  As Larry Noble, Executive Director of Center for Responsive Politics points out, "Any time you see any push to put further regulations on an industry, you will see that industry fight back with lobbying and political contributions."

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Big Booze on Campus

Related Links:

Conference Website

Harvard CAS Article (PDF)

In early November, college and university administrators, campus police organizations, students, community coalition members, and industry wholesalers and retailers gathered in Mystic, CT, for The American Campus and Alcohol Regional Conference: "How to Eliminate 'Intoxication: 101' from Your Curriculum," presented by Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Hartford.  Speakers included DISCUS President Peter Cressy, The Century Council (a liquor-industry organization) president Ralph Blackman, and several researchers who are directly employed by or have received money from DISCUS.


Although the conference addressed several methods to reduce alcohol use and abuse in campus life, it highlighted the social norms approach, which the alcohol industry strongly supports.  That strategy focuses on individual responsibility, skirts problems associated with heavy drinking, ignores underage drinking, and sets a drinking norm that perpetuates high-risk drinking.  A recent report from the Harvard College Alcohol Study found that social norms programs do not significantly reduce college alcohol use.  Monthly alcohol use actually increased at schools that used social norms marketing.


Previous conferences in the series have been sponsored or supported by DISCUS or others connected to the liquor industry.  We were surprised that the conference brochure failed to identify that connection for the Mystic conference.

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Recreating History

With money from DISCUS, a special license from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Federal Government, and a whiskey recipe from the first U.S. president, George Washington's Mount Vernon distillery is once again up and running. In 2000, DISCUS donated $1.2 million to the Mount Vernon Estate to rebuild this distillery.  Both DISCUS President Peter Cressy and Mount Vernon Executive Eirector Jim Rees reiterated the importance of balancing Washington's belief that liquor was "essential to the health of the Men" with his "message of responsibility."  Visitors to Mount Vernon would receive an explanation of Washington's distilling process "without promoting alcohol," insists Mount Vernon Associate Director Dennis Pogue.


After preparing whiskey using Washington's original recipe, distillers plan to age it for a few years and auction off the bottles to benefit the Mount Vernon Estate.

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New Book Provides International Look at Effective Alcohol Policies

For information related to Research, please send us an email.

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A book due out this month, Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity -- Research and Public Policy, reviews and analyzes policies to prevent and manage alcohol-related problems.  Taking an international perspective, the 15 authors, who comprise the Alcohol and Public Policy Group, use their diverse backgrounds in areas such as sociology, epidemiology, political science, psychology, and economics to scientifically break down the essence of alcohol policy.


After explaining how and why we cannot consider alcohol like any other commodity, the book investigates different policies, such as pricing and taxation, regulating alcohol availability, drinking-and-driving countermeasures, education strategies, alcohol-promotion regulations, and treatment options.  Finally, the book presents approaches to effective policymaking and implementation, focusing on evidence-based alcohol policies.


To order the book:

Oxford University Press

2001 Evans Road

Cary, NC 27513

Phone: (800) 451-7556

Fax: (919) 677-1303

Email: medical@oup-usa.org


Or, you can order this book online at Barnes & Noble (bn.com) and amazon.com.


Reference:  Babor, T.F., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, N., Graham, K., Grube, J., Gruenwald, P., Hill, L., Holder, H.D., Homel, R., Osterberg, E., Rehm, J., Room, R. & Rossow, I. (2003).  Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity -- Research and Public Policy.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.





Contact Information:

For more information, please send us an email.

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.

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