FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 11, 1996
CONTACT: Richard Hébert 202/ 332-9110, ext. 370, or
George Hacker, ext. 343
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today censured alcoholic-beverage industry giant Joseph Seagram and Sons for violating a decades-old voluntary ban on hard liquor advertising on television, and pledged to mount a vigorous campaign to knock the ads off the air.
"Seagram's decision to start running television ads is a cynical, profiteering attempt to exploit a new generation of young people by attracting them to drink hard liquor," said George Hacker, director of alcohol policies at CSPI. "This is a classic example of putting profit ahead of the public's health. The action demonstrates the futility of industry self-regulation and the desperation of liquor marketers."
Since Prohibition, the hard liquor industry has voluntarily agreed not to advertise, first on radio and then on television. Since 1980, the consumption of spirits has declined steadily. Faced with declining sales, Seagram has announced it will begin advertising Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey on KRIS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Hacker predicted "vocal, sustained, and widespread public opposition" to the expansion of hard liquor advertising to television and said such action would lead to demands for federal and state legislative restrictions on alcohol advertising in all media.
Beer and wine are currently advertised on television and radio, but until Seagram's recent efforts to place television ads for Absolut vodka and Crown Royal, distillers restricted their advertising to print media and billboards. Some distillers recently began exploring advertising on the Internet, setting up sites on the World Wide Web. Those innovations, however, lack the capacity to reach the large number of young people who watch television.
Hacker noted that current hard-liquor advertising campaigns in the print media deliberately target young, entry-level consumers. "Seagram's invasion of television," he said, "aims to lock in these important new drinkers. Such advertising on television would clearly appeal to older adolescents -- 17 through 20-year-olds -- as well as to the distillers' main target audience. With drinking by high school seniors now increasing after a decade of decreases, we hardly need more hard-alcohol ads that tantalize teenagers in the same way that beer ads do. America's children do not need additional inducements to drink."
In the past, organizations concerned about alcohol problems have praised distillers for recognizing the power of the broadcast media to reach and influence children and teenagers and for voluntarily refraining from advertising in those media.
CSPI is a non-profit health-education and advocacy organization widely recognized for its studies of nutrition, food safety, and alcohol. Based in Washington, D.C., it is supported in large part by the 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. It does not accept funding from industry or government.