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Anheuser-Busch is this year's winner of the Harlan H. Hubbard Award for its reckless "Buy the Beer, Get the Gear" advertising campaign and its chutzpah.

Encouraging consumers -- in this case most likely young people and alcoholics -- to drink 27,000 cans or bottles of beer in six months in order to get a pool table goes way beyond the pale of corporate responsibility. And continuing this campaign despite objections from the California state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and a Superior Court judge on legal grounds demonstrates a kind of arrogance never seen among previous Hubbard Award dishonorees. Only constant vigilance by parents and the threat of a state Assembly resolution condemning the campaign finally convinced Anheuser-Busch to end radio and television ads one month early. However, it failed to keep this promise and aired ads through October.

Who else but party-minded college students would covet shirts, beer steins and dart boards emblazoned with the Anheuser-Busch logo? And for a mere 17,040 bottle caps, the promotion offered just what every binge drinking fraternity house or dorm needs: a specially designed Keg-a-rator!

"Buy the Beer, Get the Gear" exposes the hypocrisy behind Anheuser-Busch's public relations efforts to prevent underage and "abusive" drinking. It would take twenty people drinking eight beers a day, every day of the advertising campaign to win the pool table. I have yet to see a definition of responsible or moderate drinking that comes close to 8 drinks a day. In fact, the federal government has defined moderate drinking as 2 drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Like the tobacco companies that use similar tactics to sell cigarettes, Anheuser-Busch's real agenda is addiction. They know all too well that 50 percent of the alcohol produced in this country is consumed by just 10 percent of the population.

Despite the industry's proclamations, beer is not a beverage of moderation, either. Research shows that beer accounts for 55 percent of alcohol consumption but 76 percent of binge drinking situations, which is defined as drinking five or more drinks in a row. The most likely people to binge drink, college students, drink 4 billion cans of beer each year, pumping almost $5.5 billion into beer companies' coffers.

Promotions like "Buy the Beer, Get the Gear" are indefensible. If Anheuser-Busch were genuinely serious about its slogan "Let's Stop Underage Drinking Before it Starts", it would stop promoting binge drinking among America's college kids.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provides information, education, help and hope in the fight against the chronic, often fatal disease of alcoholism and other drug addictions. Founded in 1944, NCADD is a voluntary health organization with a nationwide network of Affiliates. NCADD advocates prevention, intervention, research and treatment and is dedicated to ridding the disease of its stigma and its sufferers from their denial and shame.

[ Hubbard Press Release ]