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September 10, 1999


Report & Press Release


Statement of Fritz Wiecking
Manager for Federal Affairs for
Center for Science in the Public Interest

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is gravely disappointed in the report to Congress concerning alcohol advertising released today by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The report appraised the self-regulation efforts of the alcohol industry to avoid promoting its products to kids.

The FTC's own report says that half of the eight companies investigated were not in compliance with the industry's own advertising codes. Two of the companies had weeks in which as many as one-quarter of all their advertising targeted kids. That is outrageous -- and it is troubling that the FTC could state that the industry is 'generally complying with their self-regulatory standards.'

We are pleased that the FTC report does identify some of the weaknesses in the existing industry standards. It notes that the industry allows itself to advertise when the target audience is 49% underage -- even though underage persons are only 30% of the U.S. population. The FTC makes useful suggestions for stronger standards including the suggestion that advertising should be prohibited when the content has substantial underage appeal, even if they also appeal to adults. The troubling part of the report is its suggestion that we continue to rely on industry self-regulation -- when that self-regulation is not working.

CSPI believes that the FTC should have recommended, in addition to strengthened self-regulation, the creation of legally enforceable standards, whether through their own regulations or through Congressional action. We believe some of the steps FTC should have recommended are:

  • Alcoholic-beverage companies should not advertise on radio or TV programs, or in print-media, or be allowed to do product placements in movies, where the target audience contains more than 25% of underage readers or viewers (underage people represent about 30% of the U.S. population).

  • All alcoholic-beverage ads should include federally mandated warnings, as tobacco ads already do.

  • Alcoholic beverage companies should be prohibited from promotions at sporting events where the majority of the participants or 25% or more of the audience are persons under the age of 21.

Underage drinking is the largest drug problem in America. Alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug among youth. It kills 6.5 times as many children and teenagers than all other drugs combined. Nearly four million young people suffer from alcohol dependence, accounting for over one-fifth of all alcohol dependent people, and the average age at which children begin to drink in is about 13 years old.


CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on food-safety and alcoholic-beverage issues. It is largely supported by the more than one million subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI led efforts to win passage of the law requiring warning labels on alcoholic beverages.