State Officials Seek Stricter Standards on Alcohol Ads

May 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

State attorneys general said Tuesday they have urged the Federal Trade Commission to ask alcoholic beverage manufacturers to beef up their advertising standards to protect young people.

The coalition of 20 attorneys general wants the industry to bar alcoholic beverage advertising on TV programs and on other media for which more than 15 percent of the audience is under the legal drinking age of 21.

Under pressure from the FTC, the industry in 2004 adopted a voluntary standard that bars such advertising on TV programs and on other media outlets for which more than 30 percent of the audience is underage. Before that standard, the bar stood at 50 percent of the audience being underage.

“Alcohol can cause not only addiction in young people, it can also cause brain damage-often irreversible brain damage,” said Steve Rowe, Maine attorney general and co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General’s Youth Access to Alcohol Committee, in a statement. “We believe this thirst is driven by a culture of drinking created in part by alcohol industry marketing.”

In an interview, Jessica Maurer, a special assistant attorney general for Maine, said raising the standard to 15 percent would not affect advertising on major sports programming on broadcast TV but would affect advertising on some cable TV shows.

According to Ms. Maurer, the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences have also endorsed raising the standard to 15 percent.

In a statement, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said its member companies oppose underage drinking and welcomed FTC review of industry advertising and marketing practices.

“Over the decades, we have developed and distributed programs to fight underage drinking for colleges, communities and parents across the country,” the council said. “We have partnered with attorneys general in a variety of programs to fight underage drinking.”

“Separately, we have a very strong advertising and marketing code in place that also provides transparency through semi-annual public reports,” the statement said.