December 27, 2001
Steven M. Bornstein
Dear Mr. Bornstein,
As representatives of organizations concerned about public health and young people, we want to thank you for your continued resolve to protect the well-being of our nationís children by upholding your longstanding voluntary ban on liquor advertisements. We commend ABCís recognition that liquor ads do not belong on network television, especially in light of NBCís unfortunate and unprincipled abandonment of its public interest responsibilities. In keeping with your continued spirit of public service, we ask ABC to make a 2002 "New Yearís Resolution" to maintain the practice of prohibiting ads for hard-liquor products.
We want you to know that your current position on this issue has widespread backing among the American public. According to a national opinion poll conducted between December 14 and 16 by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Incorporated, an overwhelming majority (72%) of Americans support keeping network television free of hard-liquor ads. Most Americans (79%) think that allowing liquor ads on television will be a factor in causing young people under 21 to try liquor.
There are other strong reasons why a "New Yearís Resolution" to avoid liquor advertising would serve both ABCís and the public interests. Too many influences already promote drinking by underage youth. Comprehensive research conducted at Michigan State University and the University of Missouri during the past five years confirms that hard-liquor ads on TV would significantly increase the pressures to drink on our nationís youth. That study found that two-thirds of the young adults and teenagers surveyed said TV liquor ads show them that drinking is romantic. Half the young respondents said that such ads teach them which brands taste best, how other people use alcohol, and which brands are most popular.
Alcohol is by far Americaís number-one youth drug problem. It kills six times more kids than all illicit drugs combined and underage drinking costs our country an estimated $52 billion per year. According to the latest government data, nearly one-third of all 12- to 20-year-olds report using alcohol within the past month. Of those youth, nearly 20 percent binge drink.
Young people are especially susceptible to harm associated with drinking. The age of first alcohol use strongly predicts future alcohol dependence. Those who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than those who wait until they are 21. Adolescents who consume alcohol are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors, such as becoming sexually active at an earlier age and having unprotected sex (placing them at greater risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases). Alcohol use by young people also contributes to higher rates of clinical depression, academic problems, crime victimization, and sexual assault.
ABC is doing the right thing for the nationís youth by refusing to accept liquor advertisements. We urge you to stand firm in this resolve, and we offer our appreciation and future support of this principled position.
George A. Hacker
On behalf of the following organizations and the many more that could not be reached due to the holiday season.
Alaska Women's Resource Center
The letter was also sent to the following network executives: