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More Teens Choosing Liquor over Beer?

Statement of CSPI Alcohol Policies Project Director George A. Hacker

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Startling research, published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that more teens are drinking hard liquor than beer. This is a huge victory for liquor marketers. But it is scary and ominous news for parents and public health professionals, who should rightly be concerned by the liquor industry’s successful campaign to make booze more attractive to kids.

Think of the dull amber, brown, and clear bottles in liquor stores of yesterday and compare that to the bright pinksneon blues, and girly greens that characterize hard liquor today. Today’s infantilized liquors are flavored with peach, raspberry, mango, cherry, grape and every other kid-friendly flavor under the sun: HypnotiqSmirnoff Blueberry. DeKuyper Pineapple Coconut, Sour Apple, or Tropical Mango schnapps. Pink Grapefruit flavored Hiram Walker? Please.

And it certainly hasn’t helped that ads for these products are showing up in ever greater numbers on cable television, and not just at night. The convenience and concealability of liquor has always appealed to teens. But let’s face it—hard liquor has gone from country clubs and biker bars to proms and playgrounds.

Before companies like Diageo starts putting Hello Kitty or Barbie on gin and vodka, federal regulators, Congress, and state legislators need to take a fresh look at the availability, marketing, and taxation of liquor and other alcoholic beverages. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).