Statement of George Hacker
Director, Alcohol Policies Project
Center for Science in the Public Interest
In support of the Voluntary Alcohol Advertising Standards for Children Act
April 10, 1997
Center for Science in the Public Interest is pleased to join
Representative Joseph Kennedy's efforts to protect children from broadcast appeals to
drink alcoholic beverages. Today, kids are bombarded by more than $700 million in beer,
wine, and liquor ads on radio and television.
Those ads encourage them to drink, and they bolster unacceptable
levels of alcohol consumption among young people and the problems that go with it. Alcohol
is the drug of choice for young people in this country, and a major factor in the three
leading causes of death for persons 15-24, including unintentional injuries, homicides and
suicides. Alcohol is a deadly drug in children's hands. Liquor, because of its
concentration, presents special dangers.
Representative Kennedy's "Voluntary Alcohol Advertising
Standards for Children Act" reinforces broadcasters' responsibilities to the
public. It would help take our children out of the cross hairs of beer and liquor
marketers. By promoting voluntary action by broadcasters, the bill places the
responsibility where it belongs, with businesses that are licensed to serve the public
Beer and liquor companies betray the public's trust when they
advertise to underage audiences. They claim it doesn't happen, but just look at the
Budweiser frogs or the Coors' "Tap the Rockies" campaigns, or Seagram's dogs and
Hiram Walker's Kahlua Mudslide; or the frequency and placement of beer ads on
youth-oriented MTV. Those industries say they've been responsible. They point to their
industries' voluntary codes of advertising practice as evidence of their social conscience
Those codes, however, explicitly endorse advertising to audiences in
which one of every two persons is underage. They sanction advertising to underage persons,
so long as the young are not the primary intended targets. Beer and liquor industry
voluntary codes are weak, vague, and unenforceable. When's the last time that a company
got even a slap on the wrist for brazenly flouting them?
It took massive bad publicity and the imminent threat of a Federal
Trade Commission investigation before Anheuser-Busch pulled its ads from youth-oriented
MTV last January. Why did it take 10 years since "age-21" became the law of the
land for the world's largest brewer to stop competing for attention on MTV with ads for
pimple control products and sports equipment?
The beer and liquor industry voluntary codes have failed miserably
to protect our children. They have been useful, however, to give the appearance of
We don't expect new broadcast standards for alcohol advertising to
be adopted overnight. While we're waiting, there is something that can be done. We call
upon the liquor industry to go back to the voluntary ban. Be good corporate citizens and
don't add to the risks our children already face.
Brewers also should demonstrate utmost caution when it comes to
advertising that appeals to children. We urge them to adopt a voluntary moratorium on all
broadcast and other advertising that reaches large numbers of teens and children.
Stop targeting our kids.
Release on Moratorium]