Action Alert:
Ad Recklessly Promotes Binge Drinking Culture and Undermines Colleges' Struggle to Combat Excessive Drinking

FYI: VivaSmart has removed the link to the below mentioned "beer" advertisement from their website.  However, support is still needed to ensure that the ad is removed from all print media.

BACKGROUND


An irresponsible and destructive new advertisement is being run in college newspapers by VivaSmart, an on-line textbook seller. The ad, which can be viewed on the company's website at www.vivasmart.com, features the headline "More on Beer, Less on Books," with explanatory text that begins, "We know you have better things to do than blow all your money on textbooks." Such a message recklessly promotes and legitimizes a college drinking culture that is already dangerously out of control in too many college communities. It is especially offensive in view of the uphill struggle colleges nationwide are facing in their efforts to combat the serious problem of binge drinking among college students, and to overcome perceptions that heavy drinking is a normal and expected part of the college experience.


ACTION

1) Contact VivaSmart, Inc. to educate them about the seriousness of college binge drinking problems, and demand that this irresponsible ad be immediately retracted and discontinued. E-mail the company at charlieo@vivasmart.com, fax them at 650/298-8623 or call 650/298-0680. Correspondence should be addressed to:

Mr. Charlie Oppenheimer, CEO
VivaSmart, Inc.
520 Second Avenue
Redwood City, CA 94063-3848

2) Use your influence to ensure that student newspapers refuse publication of this ad, and do not permit it to be distributed on campus in poster form or by any other means.

Some talking points for responding to this damaging and irresponsible ad are included on the following page. Please speak out to stop this ad from sending an irresponsible and destructive message to college students, and reaping profits at the expense of the health, productivity, and safety of college communities. For additional information on binge drinking in general, please contact the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest at 202-332-9100, ext. 385.


TALKING POINTS FOR LETTERS TO VIVASMART

VivaSmart, don't be Viva-Dumb! Textbook Vendor's Ad
("More on Beer, Less on Books") Recklessly Promotes Binge Drinking
Culture; Undermines Colleges' Struggle to Combat Excessive Drinking

Tell VivaSmart that binge drinking has reached epidemic levels in college communities across the country, and that credible research indicates that almost half of all college students are binge drinkers.

Advise them that college students hardly need further inducement to drink, considering that brewers already spend from $15 million to $20 million a year pushing beer to the college market, despite the fact that drinking is illegal for most underclassmen who are under 21.

Let them know about the staggering social and economic costs of this growing problem, including the facts that:

  • Nationwide, each year college students spend $5.5 billion on alcohol, more than they spend on books, soft drinks, tea, coffee, milk, and juice combined.
  • 41% of all academic problems stem from alcohol abuse and 28% of the students who drop out of school may do so because of alcohol.
  • More of the nation's undergraduates will ultimately die from alcohol-related causes than will go on to get MAs and PhDs combined.
  • 95% of violent crime and 80% of all vandalism on campus is alcohol-related, and alcohol is implicated in 90% of all reported rapes.
  • Students who binge drink report adverse effects including: hospitalization for alcohol overdose, trouble with police, damaging property, physical injury, unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, forgetting where they were or what they did, falling behind on school work, missing classes, doing something they later regretted, arguing with friends, and hangovers.
  • Binging also has "second hand" effects on non-binging students and community members. 87% of students on "high-binging" campuses reported one or more of the following problems as a result of anothers' binge drinking : being the victim of sexual assault or "date rape"; being pushed, hit, or assaulted; having property damaged; being insulted or humiliated; being confronted with unwanted sexual advances; being in a serious argument or quarrel; having to "baby-sit" a drunken friend; and having study or sleep interrupted.

By using such ads, VivaSmart reinforces the perception that college and heavy drinking are inextricably linked and undermines efforts by colleges nationwide to combat what college Presidents have called "the most serious problem on campus." Insist that VivaSmart act immediately to withdraw this ad, and refrain from using ads that promote or endorse excessive drinking and other unhealthy and destructive student behavior.


For More Information Contact:
Kimberly Miller
Manager, College Initiatives
(202) 332-9110

September 10, 1999