Alcohol ads under pressure

Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Watchdog groups say children are awash in advertising for beer and other alcoholic beverages-and the groups are demanding a crackdown from the television industry and federal government.
“No one is protecting our youth,” said David Kessler, a physician and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
The American Medical Association is concerned because one recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth says that underage youngsters saw two beer and ale ads on television in 2001 for every three seen by an adult and that youths were more likely than adults to have seen more than 24 percent of the commercials.
A separate study by the AMA, meanwhile, found that adolescents may be more susceptible to irreversible brain damage from alcohol abuse than their elders and even occasional heavy drinking causes harm.
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth has asked the Federal Trade Commission to review the industry’s advertising practices.
AMA asked that the TV industry pledge not to air ads for alcoholic beverages before 10 p.m. or on programming that has more than 15 percent underage viewers.
The AMA also said the average child tries alcohol for the first time at age 12 and nearly 20 percent of those age 12 to 20 report being binge drinkers, defined as having at least four or five drinks in one sitting.
In its study, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth said that of the $811.2 million spent on alcohol advertising in 2001 (208,909 ads), 86 percent was for beer and ale.
The center also said The WB, UPN, Comedy Central, BET and VH1 routinely overexposed youths to alcohol ads during 2001, meaning that more than 15 percent of the audience for their shows consisted of youths.
The 15 percent benchmark is important to the watchdog groups because that’s about the percentage of youths in the TV viewing audience.
Under the industry’s voluntary codes, alcohol advertisers are currently urged to avoid airing commercials on programs where youths represent the majority of the viewing audience.
But industry representatives vowed to fight.
“Everybody is rightly concerned about alcohol abuse, but the way to stop it is to stop the illegal sale rather than legal speech,” said Dan Jaffe, executive VP of the Association of National Advertisers.
“We believe our industry is a responsible advertiser and does things that are respectful and responsible,” said Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute.#