CSPI Press Releases -- Reject Televison Advertising of Distilled Spirits



Contact: George Hacker, ext. 343


The Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on leading American distilled-spirits producers and distributors to continue respecting the industry's longstanding, voluntary ban on television liquor advertising. In a letter to the companies' chief executives, CSPI urged that they not follow the lead of the Seagram Company, which broke the 48-year ban in June by launching a month-long advertising campaign for Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey on the NBC-TV affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The Director of CSPI's Alcohol Policies Project, George Hacker, pointed to government data reporting high levels of alcohol consumption and substantial alcohol-related problems among high school students. Hacker advised the companies to "help keep the youth-oriented television medium off-limits to liquor ads that can lead only to a greater saturation of the airwaves with seductive messages that encourage drinking."

Earlier this month, CSPI coordinated an open letter to Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr., protesting that company's abandonment of the "good practice" ban on TV liquor advertising instituted almost a half-century ago by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. That letter, signed by 12 members of Congress and 43 health, safety, consumer, and religious organizations, appeared as a full-page ad in the August 2 edition of the New York Times. The ad urged members of the public to phone Mr. Bronfman to express disapproval of Seagram's TV campaign.

The Seagram Company has not responded to the published letter, and it is unclear whether the company plans further television advertising. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has begun a review of its current guidelines, which discourage such advertising.

The letter to the CEOs warned of continuing controversy if TV liquor advertising persists, noting the opposition to it by groups such as the American Medical Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the move in Congress to limit alcohol advertising. Following the onset of Seagram's Corpus Christi venture, which aired on KRIS-TV, Joseph P. Kennedy II introduced legislation, supported by 12 other Representatives, to ban all liquor ads from radio and television.

In a June 15 radio address, President Clinton also came out against liquor advertising on television, asking distillers to "get back to the ban" and "Pull those ads."

For more information on Seagrams, click here.

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Since 1981, CSPI's Alcohol Policies Project has promoted public and private policies to reduce the societal toll of alcohol problems. It led the successful effort to require health warnings on containers and campaigned for two rounds of increases in federal taxes on liquor, and one on beer and wine. Its groundbreaking publications, The Booze Merchants and Marketing Booze to Blacks helped launch the national movement to reform the advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages.

CSPI is a nonprofit, health-advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Founded in 1971, it is well known for its nutrition studies of restaurant food and for obtaining the "Nutrition Facts" panel on packaged foods. CSPI accepts no industry or government funding. It is supported largely by the 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Newsletter.

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