Groups Thank Television Networks For Refusing Liquor Ads
WASHINGTON - In a letter sent to UPN, WB, FOX, CBS, and ABC television networks, thirty public health, consumer, religious, and youth-advocacy organizations praised their continuing rejection of hard-liquor advertisements for broadcast. The letter, co-signed by organizations including the Consumer Federation of America, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the National PTA, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and the Baptist Center for Ethics, highlighted the compelling health reasons and strong public support for keeping liquor ads out of broadcast television. It asked the networks "to make a 2002 ‘New Year's Resolution’ to maintain the practice of prohibiting ads for hard-liquor products."
In mid-December, the NBC television network abandoned five decades of responsible voluntary standards prohibiting hard-liquor advertising on broadcast television and began to air liquor commercials. That move generated considerable criticism from public health and safety groups and a growing number of federal legislators.
"NBC’s decision to accept liquor ads puts profits above young people," said George A. Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which coordinated the group letter. "It flies in the face of strong public opinion against broadcast liquor advertising." A recent national opinion poll conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc., for CSPI found that 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; and 70% agree that it is dangerous to have liquor ads on TV because they will introduce young people under the age of 21 to liquor.
The letter to the networks noted that "[t]oo 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 Nation’s youth. That study found that two-thirds of the young adults and teenagers surveyed said TV liquor ads suggest 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. The researchers also found significant associations between exposure to television and cable liquor commercials and liquor consumption among young adults, as well as intentions to drink liquor when older among 15 to 20 year-olds.
Ads which encourage young people to drink would only exacerbate already rampant underage drinking problems. "Alcohol is by far America’s 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. 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."
The groups offered the networks appreciation and support for "doing the right thing for the Nation’s youth by refusing to accept liquor advertisements."
The text of the letter and full list of co-signers will be available at: http://www.cspinet.org/booze/liquor_letter.htm
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a nonprofit health-advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on nutrition, food safety, and alcohol policies. It led efforts to obtain warning labels on alcoholic beverages and is well-known for revealing the nutrition content of many restaurant foods. CSPI is supported largely by the 800,000 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by foundation grants.