Statement of George A. Hacker
Director, Alcohol Policies Project
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Press Conference on Banning Televised Liquor Ads

June 13, 1996

With its decision to advertise hard liquor on television, the Joseph Seagram Company has declared war on the children and parents of America. Today, its canine ad for Crown Royal whiskey features the gracious and familiar strains of music that millions of teenagers will hear during their high school graduation ceremonies. How long will it be before Seagram, or some other hard liquor company, starts using cute animated characters that appeal to children -- like the frogs, penguins, and anteaters now so prominent in beer commercials? How long before hard liquor commercials appear during the Super Bowl or on MTV? How long before adolescents sing Seagram's jingles and recite Seagram's ads, as they now mimic ads for beer?

Enough is enough. Kids already get an overdose of ads on television teaching them that drinking beer is fun, that it's cool, that it will help them score with girls. The last thing they need is another avalanche of powerful electronic messages assuring them that liquor will make them successful -- even valedictorians -- and that drinking should be a part of their lives.

For nearly fifty years, the liquor industry has honored its pledge not to advertise on television. Center for Science in the Public Interest and dozens of other groups have frequently applauded that decision and praised the liquor industry for its social responsibility. That sound practice shielded generations of America's children from the kind of predatory broadcast advertising practices that American brewers use to mass market their beers.

Seagram and the hard liquor industry's trade association, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, have broken their promise to the American people. They have put profit above the interests of our children and the public health. Their desperate action signals the failure and the futility of self-regulation. It is time for the United States Congress to help them keep their word. It is time for the Congress to stand on the side of children and shield them from the likely deluge of new television pitches that promote America's number one drug.

We call on the Congress to support legislation introduced today by Representative Kennedy and others. This bill does what the liquor industry has held to be the right thing to do for the past half-century. It preserves the status quo, replaces what is now shown to be futile and ineffective industry self-regulation, and sends a clear message that liquor profiteering at the expense of America's children is as unacceptable today as it was fifty years ago.

ABC, CBS, and NBC all say "no" to hard liquor ads. The United States Congress should do so as well.