CSPI News Release

For Immediate Release June 23, 1998

For More Information Contact:

George Hacker
(202) 332-9110

Sarah Kayson NCADD
(202) 737-8122


70% Support Federal Look at Effects of TV Ads on Underage Drinking

According to a national opinion poll released by the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems, 70% of Americans agree that "federal agencies should examine whether alcohol advertising on television affects underage drinking."

Coalition members pointed to this overwhelming public support in a letter to William Kennard, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging him to seek approval for a Notice of Inquiry to explore issues raised by the 1996 introduction of liquor advertising on radio and television.

The poll question on alcohol advertising was part of a national telephone survey of 1005 adults conducted by Chilton Research Services between June 4 and June 6, 1998. Of those surveyed, 43% "strongly agreed" with the proposal, compared to 14% who "strongly disagreed." Among those polled, females (79.4%), persons 65 years and older (72.3%), and African-Americans (75.5%) expressed the strongest support; 71.6% of persons 18-34 also backed a federal inquiry into the effects on children of television alcohol ads.

In July 1997 former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt proposed a Notice of Inquiry regarding broadcast liquor advertising. That proposal failed on a 2-2 vote of the Commission. In renewing its request for an FCC inquiry, the Coalition letter cited recent research findings on youth alcohol use and evidence that expenditures for broadcast liquor advertising had increased. It asserted that further agency delay might "subject America’s children to excessive risks related to current and future alcohol use."

Last winter, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released a study documenting that children who begin to drink at younger ages are at significantly higher risk of becoming alcohol dependent (as adults) than those who begin later. An adolescent who starts drinking by age fifteen is four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than someone who waits until age 21.

According to Adams Liquor Handbook, broadcast advertising for distilled spirits increased by 150% between 1995 and 1996, from $1.4 million to $3.5 million.

"Why wait for the floodgates to burst before examining the facts and determining the impact on kids?" asked Sarah Kayson, Director for Public Policy for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and co-chair of the Coalition. "Children are now bombarded with a steady deluge of beer and wine ads. They certainly don’t need additional encouragement to drink."

The letter also noted research evidence cited by Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, suggesting that advertising may influence adolescents to be more favorably disposed to drinking.

"The FCC has the authority to insure that broadcasters operate in the public interest. It has a duty, at the very least, to establish a public record on the effects of broadcast liquor -- and other alcoholic-beverage -- advertising on children. Delay serves no purpose other than to capitulate to the continuing pollution of our airwaves by broadcast alcohol advertising that appeals to and influences our children," said George Hacker, Director of the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Coalition co-chair.

The Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems includes more than 130 national, state and local groups involved in public health, safety, consumer, religious, and other interests. It is coordinated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). The national poll question was sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, CSPI, Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, NCADD, United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries, and the Victims Rights Political Action Committee.

Read letter to Chairman Kennard