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WASHINGTON REPORT

NOVEMBER 2002

Welcome to the inaugural edition of CSPI's Washington Report, a new online resource!

Produced by the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington Report provides online information and updates about federal and state alcohol-policy issues, including alcohol advertising and marketing, labeling, product development, taxation, and industry political and commercial initiatives.  Washington Report also provides action alerts to inform advocates of opportunities to promote and influence pro-health alcohol policies.

 In this Edition:

Federal Policy Update

Alcohol Policies Project Advocacy News

Industry Watch

Other News

 

 Federal Policy Update
 

Congress Asks for a Study on Underage Drinking Prevention

For information related to Federal Policy, please contact Kim Miller, Manager of Federal Relations

Related Links:

NAS website

CSPI NAS Testimony

Congressional sponsors of legislation to create a National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking (HR 1509/S 866) secured report language and $500,000 in the FY2002 Labor HHS appropriations bill for a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) aimed at developing a cost-effective national strategy to prevent underage drinking.

 

The origins of the study date back several years to repeated Congressional attempts to establish a media campaign to address underage alcohol use.  The NAS has formed a committee of alcohol-prevention, communications, and public-health experts to conduct the study, and has scheduled a series of meetings this fall to solicit public and expert input.

 

The report is due to be completed in June 2003.  CSPI and other public health and safety groups expect the study to provide new momentum for stronger federal action on underage drinking, including a strategic plan and recommendation for a national media campaign.

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ATF Asleep at the Wheel on Liquor-Branded "Alcopops"

 

Related Links:

11/5/02 Press Release

 

5/9/01 ATF Letter

9/17/02 ATF Letter

11/5/02 ATF Letter

In September 2002, a coalition of 38 health, consumer, and family groups urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to expand the scope of its current investigation of liquor-branded "alcopops" to consider public health and safety issues and underage drinking.

 

In early November, CSPI released new polling data showing that adults and teens alike are confused by deceptive use of malt beverages to market hard-liquor brands.  See Other News.

 

On November 5, 2002, CSPI sent a letter to ATF director Bradley Buckles, calling on ATF to design rules that recognize the unique hybrid nature of "alcopops."  CSPI wants ATF to require:

  1. clear indications on product labels that disclose the source of the alcohol, whether fermented malt or distilled spirits from flavoring agents, and the alcohol content;

  2. revised design, coloring, and style of product labeling and packaging to make the products less appealing to underage consumers; and

  3. liquor-branded "alcopop" products to be regulated for tax and distribution purposes as if they were distilled spirits.

In this letter, CSPI wrote, "Once again, we urge ATF to promulgate regulations to remedy adult consumers' confusion over liquor-branded alcopops, and to stop marketing tactics whose raison d'etre is to build hard-liquor brand loyalty among underage drinkers."

 
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Update: U.S. Representatives Call for Hearing on Alcohol Ads and Children

 

Related Links:

7/26/02 Action Alert

Due to growing public concern about alcohol advertising, Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) circulated a letter to their colleagues in the House.  The letter called for the Energy and Commerce Committee to schedule hearings examining the impact of television alcohol advertising on underage youth and the adequacy of voluntary advertising standards in minimizing youth exposure to such promotions.

 

Thanks, in part, to grassroots advocacy efforts urging U.S. Representatives to support this initiative, a letter signed by 21 bi-partisan House members went to Billy Tauzin (R-LA), Chairman of the Committee.  We will keep you posted on developments related to a Congressional hearing as we work to move this issue forward in the 108th Congress.

 
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Alcohol Policy Outlook for the 108th Congress

 
 

The Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems (CPAP, a group of national prevention, public health, and child-advocacy organizations that support federal alcohol policy reforms) will reconvene in December to discuss the outlook for alcohol policy reforms in the 108th Congress.  Among other initiatives, the group will develop strategies for the re-introduction of the National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking, the defeat of industry efforts to reduce alcohol tax rates, and alcohol advertising reforms.

 
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 Alcohol Policies Project Advocacy News

 

Hundreds Protest ONDCP's Beer Links

For information related to Advocacy News, please contact

Bill England, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy

 

Talking about the NASCAR partnership, Mr. Walters explained that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign "encourages youth to seek out the positive things in their lives that stand between them and drugs."

 

ONDCP Director John Walters

Mr. Jimmy Spencer

 

In late August, CSPI launched a campaign to urge "Drug Czar" John Walters to end the partnership between the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Anheuser-Busch beer-sponsored NASCAR racer Jimmy Spencer.  Mr. Spencer assists ONDCP in communicating its "anti-drug" messages to America's youth.  Many believe this relationship sends a confusing message to children "Don't Do Drugs, But Beer is OK!" and legitimizes alcohol producers as sponsors of sporting events popular among young people.

 

Related Links:

8/5/02 Letter to Mr. Walters

Response from ONDCP:

CSPI received a response to our August 5, 2002 letter to Mr. Walters.  ONDCP wrote: "Based upon expert advice, our Campaign has adopted a strategy of taking our substance abuse prevention messages to those very venues [TV, magazines, concerts and sporting events] to help counter mixed messages to youth, so that they understand that use of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco are risky and can have serious consequences."  According to the letter, which cites Mr. Spencer's agent, the race-car driver "does not have a contractual relationship with the alcohol industry."

 

That's strange.  Mr. Spencer's website features a celebratory pose flanked by cases of Busch beer.  His car and racing outfits are adorned with both the Bud and Busch brands.  His website says he races for the Busch Beer Team (and Winston Cup as well).  The site sells beer can "cozies" and shot glasses.

 

Hmmm!  Is that what ONDCP thinks will "counter mixed messages to youth?"  What a mockery of ONDCP's goal to help kids stay drug-free!

 

TAKE ACTION

Since we raised this issue with ONDCP, hundreds of advocates from around the country have bombarded Mr. Walters with letters, e-mails, and faxes urging Mr. Walters to end the relationship with Mr. Spencer and NASCAR.  To date, he has not done so.  If you have not sent a letter send one now!

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NFL To Promote Hard Liquor

Related Links:

9/26/02 Action Alert

9/25/02 Letter to the Redskins' President

In its latest effort to expand advertising for hard liquor and compete with brewers, Diageo, the world's largest producer of alcoholic beverages (whose brands include Captain Morgan's rum, Smirnoff vodka, and Smirnoff Ice), on September 6, 2002 announced an unprecedented multi-million dollar, multi-year contract with the Washington Redskins to advertise its hard-liquor brands in FedEx Stadium and its "alcopop" products during Redskin game telecasts.  The company also entered into similar, though more modest, deals with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.  Diageo's new strategy mixes hard liquor promotion and professional football for the first time and further undermines the TV networks' voluntary ban on broadcast advertising for hard-liquor.

 

CSPI has urged the teams to reverse their decisions to sell advertising space to Diageo.  CSPI has asked the NFL (which has policies against hard-liquor promotion) and its other teams to refuse advertising and sponsorship for hard-liquor products, including liquor-branded "alcopops."

 

Several members of Congress, led by Rep. Tom Osbourne (R-NE), wrote the NFL, calling on the league to maintain its policy of refusing liquor sponsorship of NFL teams.

 

TAKE ACTION

Send a letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to express your disapproval of stadium ads for liquor or liquor-branded "alcopops" and beer ads during NFL telecasts.  Urge the league to maintain a voluntary ban on liquor advertising.

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Abercrombie & Fitch Fashions Promote Binge Drinking

 

Teen clothing marketer, Abercrombie & Fitch, has once again started alcoholizing its products, its catalog, and its website advertising.  Some of the company's t-shirts, sweat shirts, and jeans feature messages that blatantly encourage or trivialize heavy and potentially dangerous drinking.  The products, such as the shirts below, target high school and college-age youth.  We found them and others on the A&F website and in the company's fall "Back to School" catalog.

 

 

This is not the first time the clothier has stumbled into promoting drinking to its teenage and college consumers.  In 1998, A&F featured a promotion called "Drinking 101," which included recipes for hard-liquor concoctions such as "Brain Hemorrhage" and "Foreplay."  After public outcry from MADD, CSPI and other organizations, A&F agreed to refrain from future promotions that promote binge drinking.  A&F stated its intention then that future issues of the catalog would "discuss the responsibilities and hazards involved in alcohol use."  Obviously, another corporate commitment ignored....

 

CSPI wrote A&F's CEO Mike Jeffries on October 4th , asking the company to retract its promotion, recall the remaining copies of the catalog, remove all clothing that includes references to drinking from its website, and stop trivializing the severity of alcohol problems on college campuses.  We received a form letter in reply.  Maybe our letters to A&F's major institutional stockholders (with copies to members of the board of directors) will wake the company up.  Seriously, Abercrombie, leave the booze promotions to brewers and distillers; they don't need lessons in how to attract teenage attention!

 

TAKE ACTION

Send a message to the President of the company: 

Mike Jeffries,

Chairman & CEO

Abercrombie and Fitch

6301 Fitch Path

New Albany, OH  43054

Phone: 614-283-6500

Fax:  614-283-6710

 

And take your business elsewhere!

 

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 Industry Watch
 

Follow the Money

 

Related Links:

Paying the Piper

Under the Influence

Since 1990, the alcohol industry has contributed $53.4 million to federal candidates, including more than $13 million during the 2000 Presidential Campaign and over $7.5 million during the 2002 Congressional campaigns.

  • Democrats received $24 million (45% of the total).

  • Republicans received $29.4 million (55% of the total).

Top five contributors in 2002

1.  National Beer Wholesalers Association

2.  Anheuser-Busch

3.  Brown-Forman Corp

4.  Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

5.  Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

$1,743,156

$1,382,909

$387,549

$354,861

$272,723

Source: The Center for Responsive Politics (as of September 9, 2002)

 

Top ten recipients in 2002

Senate Races

James M. Talent (R-MO)

Max Baucus (D-MT)

Jean A. Carnahan (D-MO)

John Cornyn (R-TX)

Wayne Allard (R-CO)

Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

$93,250

$60,000

$57,000

$50,500

$33,550

$33,500

$31,000

 

House Races

Richard A Gephardt (D-MO)

Mike Thompson (D-CA)

Thomas M Reynolds (R-NY)

$129,561

$68,295

$34,990

Source: The Center for Responsive Politics (as of September 9, 2002)

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Political Action

 

 

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) PAC played an active role in the 2002 campaigns.  As of the end of September, the NBWA PAC has raised nearly $2.2 million.  That's more money than it raised during the last Presidential campaign when, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the PAC contributed over $1.8 million to Federal candidates.  NBWA endorsed 256 candidates in 14 states - 243 Republicans, 13 Democrats.

 

David Rehr, President of NBWA, told the Washington Post:  "We're more energized than ever before."  Hinting at the NBWA strategy of fundraising and mobilization of its members, Rehr said, "The money is still important, but beyond the money we want to get to every eligible pro-beer vote and make sure they turn out."

 

The NBWA PAC distributed a flier to its members urging employees to "be sure to vote pro-beer" on election day, and warned that "you can be sure the anti-beer voters will be at the polls."  Member businesses advised workers on candidates, distributed voter guides, and provided transportation to the polls.

 
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Here's What Industry Spokespeople are Saying about:

 

Politics

"Our greatest achievement is increasing our political muscle.  Our greatest challenge is insuring that our neo-prohibitionist adversaries don't gain legitimacy on any front" (David Rehr, President of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, from Market Watch, September 2002).  When asked about the biggest challenge facing the beer industry in the next decade, Mr. Rehr responded: "It is that popular culture does not turn against beer."

 

"Alcopops"

"With younger drinkers, their palates haven't quite matured yet to drinks like bourbon.  Malternatives are a sweeter drink, they're easier to drink and it takes less time to mature to the taste." (Trish Rohrer, brand-development manager for Boston Beer Company, in "Malternative Universe," Restaurants USA, May 2002).

 

"The beauty of this category is that it brings in new drinkers, people who really don't like the taste of beer." (Marlene Coulis, Anheuser-Busch's director of new products, in Advertising Age, April 22, 2002).

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Ad of the Month

 

This ad for Heineken beer was sent to Booze News by Mary Pat Angelini, Executive Director of Prevention First in Oakhurst, New Jersey.  Her teenage son noticed it in the October issue of ESPN Magazine.  The ad is from a joint advertising campaign for Heineken and Nintendo called "Football Action at Your Fingertip."  Winners receive a Nintendo Video Game Cube.

Scott Hunter-Smith, Brand Manager at Heineken USA told Creative Online, "All of us at Heineken are excited about partnering with Nintendo." (From Creative Beverage Merchandising online magazine August/September 2002.)

We wonder about the targets of this marketing campaign that claims "it's all about beer" (look at the bottom right corner of the ad).

The Nintendo website suggests that the Game Cube is "designed for teen and mature players."  Is beer in any way about teens?

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 Other News

"Alcopops": Liquor or Beer?

Related Links:

11/5/02 Survey Results

7/16/02 Survey Results

5/9/01 Survey Results

 

5/9/01 ATF Letter

9/17/02 ATF Letter

11/5/02 ATF Letter

On November 5, 2002, CSPI released the results of its latest survey showing that large pluralities of adults believe "alcopops" are more like liquor than wine or beer.  The survey of 500 adults, conducted by Global Strategy Group, and a similar survey of teens conducted in July, show widespread confusion about what's in the drinks, and show that kids are more likely than adults to have seen ads for them.  According to the poll:

  • Adults are five times more likely to believe that Bacardi Silver is more like liquor (49%) than beer (9%) and 38% are unsure.  Last July, CSPI research found that teens were twice as likely to think Bacardi Silver was more like liquor (42%) than beer (19%).

  • Adults are three times more likely to believe that Smirnoff Ice is more like liquor (47%) than beer (14%) and 29% are unsure. 36% of teens think Smirnoff Ice is more like liquor, compared to 32% who think it is more like beer.

In July, CSPI also reported that teens are heavily exposed to television advertising for "alcopops" and beer.  The survey found that:

  • An estimated 22 million teens watch television after 9:00 p.m. on school nights during the week.  Nearly 17 million of those youths who watch TV after 9:00 p.m. lack adult supervision at least some of the time.

  • Teens believe that advertisers are reaching out to them; teens recognize they are targeted by television ads that air after 9:00 p.m.

  • More than six in ten teens ages 12 to 18 (62%) can name specific companies or brands that advertises products that appear in commercials on shows on school nights after 9:00 p.m.  Teens remember brands by name.  Many teens (up to 42%) who are exposed to television advertising for liquor-branded "alcopops" mistakenly assume they are seeing advertising for liquor products.

An earlier poll, released on May 9, 2001 revealed that:

  • Teens and adults believe that liquor and beer companies target young people with their advertising and that this contributes to underage drinking.  These sentiments are stronger among teens than adults.

  • Teenagers and adults also recognize that "alcopops" are much more popular among underage drinkers than among adults.

  • Teens are three times as likely to be aware of "alcopops" and nearly twice as likely to have tried them.

  • Eight in ten (81%) teens and 57% of adults agree that beer and liquor companies target underage drinkers or teenagers with their ads.

  • Nearly eight in ten (78%) teens and two-thirds of adults (65%) say that alcohol advertising contributes to underage drinking.

  •  Over two-thirds of teens (68%) and 72% of adults say that "alcopops" are much more popular among teens than people ages 21 and over.  There is a strong consensus among teens and adults that companies make "alcopops" taste sweeter than beer and liquor because this is appealing to young people and others not accustomed to the taste of alcohol.

           

Based on the findings, CSPI has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)  the agency that regulates alcoholic-beverage labeling and marketing to implement regulation of this growing class of booze.  See Federal Policy Update.

 

"Alcopop" producers want it both ways: to pass their products off to consumers as high-price liquor drinks and be subject to the more lenient tax and distribution rules that apply to malt beverages.  In addition, the companies want to avoid the TV networks' ban on hard-liquor advertising.  Ironically, many of the products may in fact derive much, if not all, of their alcohol from spirits sources.  So far, ATF has done little to reduce the confusion and nothing to address the way these new products introduce underage persons to drinking and to the parent liquor brands.  CSPI has asked ATF to include those considerations in its deliberations.

 
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Mark Your Calendars for Alcohol Policy XIII !

 

Related Links:

Conference Website

Alcohol Policy XIII

Preventing Alcohol Problems Among Youth: Policy Approaches

Environment and Accountability: Who Is Responsible?

Thursday - Sunday, March 13 - 16, 2003

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

 

The Alcohol Policy Conference series provides a unique forum for researchers, community advocates, and public officials to convene and exchange findings, explore evidence-based solutions, and consider adoption of laws aimed at minimizing risks associated with alcohol use. This year's gathering focuses on problems of illegal and high-risk alcohol consumption among 13 - 25 year olds.

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Washington Report has been produced with the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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