December 27, 2001

Steven M. Bornstein
President of ABC Television

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
Alcohol Policies Project
Center for Science in the Public Interest

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
Alcohol Research Information Service
American Council On Alcohol Problems
American School Health Association
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Baptist Center for Ethics
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Comm Pre
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
Consumer Federation of America
Credentialed Addiction Counselors of Maryland
Day One
Delinquency Prevention Consortium of LA County
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center
Gateway Counseling Center
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems
Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
Kentucky League on Alcohol & Gambling Problems
Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco
Marin Institute For the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems
Mercer Center on Alcoholism
NAADAC - The Association for Addiction Professionals
National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
National Families in Action
National PTA
Oregon Partnership
Queens Village Committee for Mental Health, for Jamaica Community Adolescent Program
Security On Campus, Inc.
South Bay Coalition, Manhattan Beach, CA
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Vallejo Family Resource Center
Victims Rights Political Action Committee
Wisconsin Association on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse
Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Youth Prevention Project

The letter was also sent to the following network executives:

  • K. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, Fox Entertainment Group, Inc.
  • Dean Valentine, Chief Executive Officer, United Paramount Network
  • Jed Petrick, President and COO, The WB Television Network
  • Mel Karmazin, President, COO, and Director, Viacom

Click here to view December 28, 2001 press release.