National poll shows strong opposition to liquor ads on network television

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NBC out of step with the public

WASHINGTON - According to a national poll released today by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the NBC television network’s decision to abandon its voluntary ban on hard liquor advertising flies squarely in the face of public opinion. In a survey conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc., on December 14 and 15, 68 percent of respondents opposed NBC’s action; half (48 percent) registered strong opposition to it. More than 7 of 10 (72 percent) surveyed supported network television policies that voluntarily keep liquor ads off TV; 70 percent of Americans agreed that it is dangerous to have liquor ads on TV because they will introduce young people under the legal drinking age to liquor.

     George A. Hacker, Director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, characterized NBC’s action as “the triumph of the bottom line over the public interest.” He said, “Faced with a shortfall in advertising revenues in the current economic slump, NBC stooped to taking liquor ads, maybe to help pay for popular news anchor, Katie Couric’s new $100 million salary. Katie Couric may well be worth it, but NBC’s pollution of network television with liquor ads that will induce teens and children to drink hard liquor is not. Shame on NBC.”

     “The timing could not be worse. The federal government just yesterday released data showing that daily alcohol use among 12th graders increased nearly 25% between 2000 and 2001, from 2.9% to 3.6%,” Hacker said. “Despite NBC’s claims of responsible advertising standards for liquor products, millions of underage persons will be exposed to hard liquor advertising, as they have been exposed for decades to appealing, funny, and seductive spots for beer. Research shows that liquor ads teach young people that drinking is romantic; kids learn about brands and about how to use alcohol. That’s not the kind of education they need.”

     On average, young people begin drinking at 13.1 years of age. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, those who begin by age 15 are four times as likely to become alcohol dependent than those who wait until age 21. Alcohol is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10 to 24: motor-vehicle crashes, unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Underage drinking costs Americans some $53 billion annually.

     Marty McGough, a vice president at Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. commented that public opposition to network TV liquor ads was high,“considering that people are so focused on terrorism these days. These numbers in a post-terrorism environment indicate that liquor ads on television may be a possible wedge issue in the upcoming Congressional elections.”

     Other major findings of the poll included:

  • More than half (59 percent) of respondents said they were concerned that NBC has withdrawn from the voluntary agreement not to show liquor ads on TV (35 percent said they were very concerned).
  • Most Americans surveyed (79 percent) reported that they thought liquor ads on TV will be a factor in causing young people under 21 to try liquor (42 percent said they thought it will be a major factor).
  • More than half (62 percent) of those surveyed were concerned that liquor ads would air on “Saturday Night Live,“ which is watched by many young people (40 percent were very concerned).
  • More than one-third (37 percent) of respondents thought it was not at all appropriate for NBC to air liquor ads on“Saturday Night Live,“ and one-fourth (25%) thought it was not very appropriate. Only 7% considered it very appropriate.