For Immediate

August 5, 2002

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Jeff Cronin
(202) 777-8370

Kim Miller
(202) 332-9110 ext. 338

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Drug Czar Taps Beer-Soaked NASCAR
Partnership Sends Mixed Messages To America’s Youth, Says CSPI

WASHINGTON—The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) goofed when it chose NASCAR driver Jimmy Spencer to carry its anti-drug message to America’s youth, since both Spencer and NASCAR have lucrative deals pushing beer. That, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is the latest in a series of missteps by so-called "Drug Czar" John Walters, whose agency has come under fire for leaving alcohol off its anti-drug agenda.

"As beer promoters, Jimmy Spencer and NASCAR are the wrong messengers," said George Hacker, director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project. "They’re no better than the Budweiser frogs as anti-drug spokesmen. It really shows that the drug czar has a blind spot when it comes to booze."

A recent ONCDP brochure touting the office’s outreach to the auto racing world actually pictured Spencer’s race car—emblazoned with the familiar "Bud" logo. Spencer’s web site has photos of the driver wearing a Bud hat and posing behind cases of Busch beer. Only a couple of mouse clicks separate Spencer’s shot-glass sales from his anti-drug links. Other drivers, like Rusty Wallace and Sterling Martin, plug Miller and Coors, respectively. NASCAR has a $7.5 million sponsorship deal with Busch beer.

In a letter today to Walters, CSPI’s Hacker wrote that ONDCP’s anti-drug message is compromised by NASCAR’s beer deals, which include omnipresent beer logos even on kid-friendly items like caps and toy cars.

"When we tried to get alcohol included in ONDCP’s ad campaign, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind," Hacker said.

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 pro-health alcohol policies. CSPI is supported largely by the 800,000 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by foundation grants.