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Washington Report

May 2005

Produced by the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington Report provides online information and updates about domestic and international alcohol-policy issues, including alcohol advertising and marketing, labeling, product development, taxation, and industry political and commercial initiatives.  Washington Report also provides action alerts to inform advocates of opportunities to promote and influence pro-health alcohol policies.

In this Edition:

Federal Developments

Advocacy News

Industry Watch


Federal Developments


Related Links:



STOP Action Alert

Senate Co-sponsors

House Co-sponsors



STOP Underage Drinking Act Starts Again

On February 16, 2005 Senators DeWine (R-OH) and Dodd (D-CT) re-introduced the “Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking” (STOP) Act, S.408.  On the same date, Reps. Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Wolf (R-VA), Wamp (R-TN), Osborne (R-NE) and DeLauro (D-CT) re-introduced the same bill on the House side (H.R.864).

Members of the National Alliance to Prevent Underage Drinking (NAPUD) actively continue to recruit co-sponsors for both the House and Senate bills, generating grassroots contacts (see Action Alert) and arranging direct meetings with Hill staff.

As of mid-May 2005, the Senate bill (S.408) garnered a total of 13 co-sponsors (see list) and the House bill (H.R.864) had 39 (see list).

NAPUD is urging a hearing on the STOP Act in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee).  The group has also pressed for inclusion of the bill’s provisions in the HELP Committee’s (as yet unscheduled) re-authorization of SAMHSA programs.


For information related to Federal Policy, please contact Kim Miller, Manager of Federal Relations

House Resolution Wants Booze Ads Out of College Sports

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Related Links:   


House Co-sponsors

AMA Calls on NCAA to Ban Booze Ads

On March 9, 2005, Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE) re-introduced his resolution (H.Res.145), expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should affirm its commitment to a policy of discouraging alcohol use among underage students by ending all alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of collegiate sporting events.

The bi-partisan resolution presently has 10 co-sponsors (see list).

The Osborne measure was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.  That committee is responsible for re-authorization of the Higher Education Act, which expired last year without action in the previous Congress.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association’s public endorsement of the bill may help attract new co-sponsors and stimulate additional grassroots action in support of the resolution.

(See “Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV Takes on the NCAA,” below)


Industry Seeks Unwarranted Tax Breaks

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Related Links:


Beer Tax Rollback:

Senate Co-sponsors

House Co-sponsors

Liquor Tax Rollback:

House Co-sponsors


CPAP’s Letter to Congress

Tax Rollback Action Alert

CBO Budget Options




Once again, beer and liquor lobbyists have begun to gather congressional support for legislation to slash federal excise taxes on their products.  Rep. Philip English (R-PA) re-introduced H.R.1306 on March 15; that bill would cut the federal excise tax on beer in half (see list of co-sponsors).  Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced identical legislation (S.722) on April 6 (see list of co-sponsors).

Distillers continue to press for a similarly unjustified tax cut on their products.  On April 21, Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY) re-introduced H.R.1791, a bill to reduce the rate of tax on distilled spirits to its pre-1985 level (see list of co-sponsors).

On March 16, the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems (CPAP), which CSPI co-chairs, wrote to every Member of Congress, asking them to refrain from co-sponsoring any alcohol-tax reduction legislation and instead to consider a long-overdue increase in historically low federal excise tax rates.

Please visit our website to view CPAP’s letter to Congress and CSPI’s action alert opposing reductions and supporting increases in federal excise taxes on alcoholic beverages.

Adding to the case for an increase, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in its February 2005 Budget Options for Congress, included an option to standardize the base on which the federal excise tax is levied and use the proof gallon as the measure for taxes on all alcoholic beverages.  That CBO proposal would increase the tax to $16/proof gallon for all beverage types, boosting revenues by about $4.5 billion in 2006 and a total of almost $27 billion between 2006 and 2010.  A tax of $16/proof gallon amounts to about 25 cents/ounce of ethyl alcohol.  The option would thus raise the tax on a 750-milliliter bottle of distilled spirits from about $2.14 to $2.54, the tax on a six-pack of beer from 33 to 81 cents, and the tax on a 750-milliliter bottle of table wine from 21 to 70 cents.

(See “Noted Economists Support Higher Taxes on Alcoholic Beverages,” below)


Surgeon General Issues New Warning on Drinking During Pregnancy

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Related Links:


Surgeon General Press Release

Background Information on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

"Alcohol Consumption Among Women Who Are Pregnant or Who Might Become Pregnant," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study

NOFAS Website


On February 21, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona officially released an updated warning regarding drinking during pregnancy.  The last such Surgeon General’s Advisory dates to 1981.  The revised advisory was prompted by new evidence about fetal harm caused by alcohol consumption, as well as data reflecting that many women at risk continue to drink heavily, despite numerous prevention efforts over the years.

The new warning significantly updates and strengthens the previous Surgeon General’s Advisory on alcohol and pregnancy, reiterating the advice that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant abstain from alcohol, because no safe level of consumption during pregnancy has been established.  The new advisory addresses women who may become pregnant (women aged 18-44 who are not using any form of birth control) as well as pregnant women, and urges both groups to abstain completely from alcohol.

The new issuance reflects new scientific research that documents potential fetal harm from drinking at all stages of gestation and disorders at more subtle levels than full-blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which accounts for a distinct set of physical and mental defects including premature birth, low birth weight, facial abnormalities, stunted growth, poor coordination, low IQ, hyperactivity, and learning disabilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10 percent of pregnant women drink alcohol, and about two percent engaged in binge drinking or frequent alcohol use.  More than half of women who may become pregnant drank alcohol, and greater than twelve percent of this group reported binge drinking.  In the U.S., Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a broad, non-diagnostic category of birth defects, affect 3.5 to 5 children per 1000 births.

In a related note, a provision in an omnibus Texas House bill (H.B.2544) requires that warning signs pointing out the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy be placed prominently on restroom doors at bars and at restaurants that serve alcohol.  The bill received a favorable voice vote on May 4, and will need to pass a final vote before moving on to the Senate.


TTB Requests Public Comment on Labeling Proposal

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CSPI Labeling Petition

TTB Request for Public Comment


On April 29, 2005, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a “Request for Public Comment on the Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages.” Comments are due on or before June 28 on a variety of possible changes in regulations governing the labeling of alcoholic beverages.  TTB cited the increased interest in nutrition and ingredient information in moving forward to consider how to provide more information to consumers.

The TTB notice responds, in part, to a petition from CSPI, the National Consumers League, and others for mandatory ingredient and alcohol content labeling, as well as to industry proposals for permissive "Nutrition Facts" labeling and other labeling issues that arose during consideration of malternative controversies.

Critical issues include:

  • whether the labeling changes would be mandatory or voluntary;

  • to what extent, if at all, "nutrition" information (carbs, fats, proteins) should be included;

  • whether labels should list all ingredients, calories, serving size, number of servings per container, allergens, alcohol content, and a definition of moderate drinking;

  • whether TTB requirements should be harmonized with those of other major alcohol producing nations;

  • whether the benefits to consumers are sufficient to warrant the economic costs associated with label revisions; and

  • whether the labeling requirements should apply to advertising as well.

CSPI will develop its comments on TTB's request and post them on our website.  Also, by the middle of June, we will send out more detailed talking points to assist the public health community in responding to the notice.  If you have any questions, please contact George Hacker at ghacker@cspinet.org or at 202-777-8343.


Please join us in advocating for long-overdue improvements in the labeling of alcoholic beverages.

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Advocacy News


Related Links:


CSPI Press Release on NCAA

Letter to members of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors

CSPI's NCAA Action Alert

AMA Statement and Survey Results






Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV Takes on the NCAA

Efforts to reduce alcohol advertising on sports telecasts accelerated during the winter and spring.  U.S. Representative Tom Osborne introduced House Resolution 145 on March 9, once again calling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to voluntarily eliminate alcohol ads in college sports telecasts.  On April 1, the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV held a press event in St. Louis, MO, the site of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four games, which started the following day.  The Campaign released a letter to all members of the NCAA Division I board of directors urging those 18 college presidents to make an independent and thorough re-evaluation of the organization’s current practice of allowing alcohol ads on college games.  We pointed out that alcohol ads appear 16 times more frequently on NCAA games than on general television programming, and we questioned the cozy relationship between the NCAA and the beer industry, notably with Anheuser-Busch.

Also in April, in anticipation of the NCAA Division I board meeting at the end of the month, CSPI issued an Action Alert that generated more than 900 emails from activists around the country to each of the college presidents on the board.  On the eve of the board meeting, the American Medical Association issued a strong statement opposing alcohol ads on NCAA games and released results of a public opinion survey finding that more than 70% of Americans favor taking alcohol ads off college broadcasts, confirming previous Campaign survey information.  Allies such as the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free (Governors’ Spouses), Join Together, the American College Health Association, and others also spread the word through their networks, generating letters and calls to college and NCAA officials on the issue.

No doubt in response to those efforts and others, the NCAA asked its Executive Committee to recommend comprehensive alcohol advertising policies for NCAA broadcasts.  That action moves the alcohol advertising issue to the highest policy-making body in the NCAA for deliberation in August.

In addition to the NCAA action on alcohol advertising, the University of Florida became the latest major school to endorse the College Commitment.  The school’s president, Dr. James Bernard Machen, issued a public statement on April 12, proudly noting that his school was the first in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to sign on.  News from the major college athletic conferences also suggests that many are beginning to take the issue of alcohol advertising seriously.  Those that will be reviewing their alcohol advertising rules this spring – at meetings of athletic directors and college presidents -- include the Big Ten and the Mid-American conferences.

Although this activity suggests that we’re making progress, we still have a ways to go in achieving our goal of eliminating alcohol ads during the telecasts of college sports contests.  But the NCAA and colleges around the country now know that their actions are being watched and that they will be held accountable for policies that increase, rather than decrease, risk to their students.  We hope you will help us keep the pressure on the NCAA and its member schools to take action to reduce youth exposure to alcohol ads on college sports.



For information related to Advocacy News, please contact Amy Gotwals, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy.

Noted Economists Support Higher Taxes on Alcoholic Beverages

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Related Links:


Economists’ Declaration on Federal Alcohol Excise Taxes

CPAP Letter to Congress

CSPI Press Release on Economists' Declaration


Echoing and amplifying the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems’ (CPAP) message to Congress on alcohol taxes, nearly 60 distinguished economists have endorsed an “Economists’ Declaration on Federal Alcohol Excise Taxes.”  CPAP transmitted the Economists’ Declaration to Congress with a May 16 letter calling on legislators to reject industry appeals for reductions in taxes on their products and instead consider increases to support both fiscal responsibility and public health interests.  Signers included four Nobel prize winners and four former presidents of the American Economics Association, as well noted health economist Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institute, who helped promote the Declaration with his colleagues.

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Alcohol Excise Tax Actions Spread Around the Country


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Up-to-date Information on State Tax Actions


Legislative efforts to raise alcohol taxes at the state level have been accelerating all over the country.  Although they have generally been unsuccessful, the sheer number of active legislative initiatives suggests that the alcohol tax issue has plenty of life and growing support.  Some of the prominent state battles are highlighted below (for more details, contact Dave Taylor).

House Bill 6684 would raise all alcohol taxes by 15 percent.  On April 21, the Joint Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee passed a tax bill (S.B.1321) that incorporated elements of H.B.6684, but did not include the alcohol tax increases.  That action has forced a showdown with the governor, who is threatening to veto a separate legislative spending bill.  The governor and legislators need to reach a budget deal before the session ends on June 8.

House Bill 1120 made it through the House and received the endorsement of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee before having the alcohol tax increase provisions eliminated by the full Senate.  The bill moved to Conference Committee, where it passed without alcohol tax increases.  Had the bill passed, the excise tax on beer would have doubled, increasing from 12 to 23 cents/gal; the wine tax would have increased by 25 percent, from 47 to 59 cents/gal; and the liquor tax would have risen by 29 percent, from $2.68/gal to $3.35/gal.


On March 18, Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed H.B.272 into law.  This tax overhaul bill raises all alcohol sales taxes -- beer, liquor, and wine -- from nine to eleven percent.  The tax is levied on wholesalers, and revenue from the tax is being used to cut personal income taxes.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has proposed increasing alcohol taxes as one means of funding pay raises for the state’s poorly paid teachers.  She has publicly stated that she would like to raise teacher salaries by at least $1,000, on top of an average raise of more than $400 already scheduled to take effect.  The governor has proposed raising taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, netting some $120 million in new revenue for the state.  The legislature, which convened on April 25 and runs until June 23, will consider the issue.

Two alcohol tax increase bills went down to defeat early in the session.  Later, on April 21, Sen. Jane Ranum, who heads the Senate Public Safety Budget Division, introduced a public safety spending bill that would have increased the excise tax on beer, wine, and liquor by one penny per drink.  The tax proposal failed to survive in the Senate Taxes Committee and was removed from the bill on April 28.

House Bill 184 would create the “Fund for the Reduction of Alcohol-Related Problems and Underage Drinking.”  That bill would increase the beer tax from 6 to 24 cents/gal; liquor from $2 to $4/gal; and wine from 42 to 78 cents/gal.  All new revenue from those taxes would be dedicated -- half to prevention and the other half to treatment and law enforcement.  Impressively, the bill would also index the tax rates to future inflation.  Beginning in Fiscal Year 2012, and every fifth year thereafter, the rates would be adjusted, based on the Consumer Price Index.  The bill is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee, and does not appear to be moving.

North Dakota:
Senate Bill 2372 creates a “Responsible Choices Commission,” focusing on alcohol prevention and treatment.  The original proposal included a provision to fund this commission with a beer tax increase, from 16 to 25 cents/gal.  The tax increase was later stripped from the bill, which will require the commission to raise its own funds.  The bill was signed by the governor on April 22.

House Bill 66 would double the beer tax, from 18 to 36 cents/gal, and the wine tax, from 30 to 60 cents/gal.  The House approved it the second week of April, and the Senate is expected to vote sometime in late May.  Gov. Bob Taft favors the tax increases.

South Dakota:
After running into opposition from the state legislature for alcohol tax increases, the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners is taking the issue directly to voters.  The association is working to increase the liquor tax by a nickel per drink, and they plan to begin circulating petitions in late May to get the proposal on the 2006 ballot.  If enacted, the tax would generate an estimated $17 million annually for counties.

On May 3, the Senate Finance Committee recommended raising all alcohol taxes by 25 percent.  The Legislature is facing a court order to change the way it funds its public education system, which currently relies on property taxes.  The Senate bill differs significantly from a similar bill in the House, and the two will have to be reconciled in conference.  The Texas Legislature shuts down on May 30.

House Bill 2314, which was signed by the governor on May 17, raises the state liquor tax by $1.33/liter.  The state operating budget also renews the 42 cents/liter retail liquor tax that was set to expire on June 30.  Both tax increases take effect July 1.  Washington's liquor tax now stands at $21.27/gal, or about $5.60/liter.  It is the highest state liquor tax in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

In the state of beer and brats, Rep. Therese Berceau will soon introduce a bill that would increase the beer tax by 50 percent, from $2 to $3 per 31-gallon barrel.  The tax would raise $4.7 million a year specifically to pay for alcohol-abuse treatment.  Although Wisconsin has the second-lowest beer tax rate in the nation (after Wyoming), Berceau has encountered major resistance to her bill, which would raise the price of a six-pack by two cents.



Abercrombie and Fitch Booze Tees Get Boos

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Abercrombie & Fitch Action Alert











In early May, Abercrombie and Fitch, the clothing line so popular among young people, introduced a new line of t-shirts that promoted dangerous drinking messages.  After roughly two weeks, spurred in part by a large public backlash (including complaints from alcohol producers and trade associations), the t-shirt line appears to have been discontinued.

The women’s t-shirt line contained such slogans as: “Sotally Tober,” “If you can read this, you need another cocktail,” “Bad girls chug. Good girls drink quickly,” and “Candy is dandy.  But liquor is quicker.”

Young men had a choice of “Together we can get the planet trashed,” “I give to the pour,” “I brews easily,” “Beer Fest Staff,” and “Filler Up.”

All of the t-shirts, except for the men's "Beer Fest Staff" t-shirt, have been removed from the company's web site and customer service representatives are telling callers that the shirts are no longer for sale.  Calls to local stores in the Washington, D.C. area, however, indicate that the shirts were still on shelves as of May 17.

According to the A&F web site: “our casual, classic, all-American lifestyle brand of clothing is synonymous with quality.  Although we specifically target college students between the ages of 18-22, our appeal is universal.”  Other media reports suggest that A&F’s target audience includes teens as young as 16.

CSPI will continue to monitor this situation closely.

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Industry Watch


Related Links:


CSPI/NCADD Letter of Complaint to the FTC

CSPI Press Release on Anheuser-Busch Ad

Anheuser-Busch Response

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Anheuser-Busch Television Ad

Anheuser-Busch Magazine Ad




Responsibility Matters?


On April 7, CSPI and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) complained directly to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about a television ad for Bud Light beer that portrayed alcoholic behavior and the enabling of addictive drinking.  The complaint, which alleges an unfair advertising practice, went to the FTC rather than the Beer Institute because the Institute’s voluntary advertising code was unhelpful, as it is all but silent on the subject of alcoholism.

In the ad, three men arrive at a bar, where the bartender asks how they can get off work early every day to drink Bud Light.  They then recount how they get others to lie for them to disguise their covert drinking.  They’re clearly putting their drinking above their responsibilities to clients, employers, and the public.  Meant to be humorous, this ad portrays a pattern of compulsive drinking that could be alcoholic, and promotes lying in order to facilitate that drinking.  CSPI and NCADD’s complaint to the FTC suggests that this depiction of high risk drinking, even if done in a humorous manner, violates standards for fair advertising.

On May 6, Anheuser-Busch replied to the complaint, noting, in part: “We take very seriously our commitment to abiding by the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code and do not believe the ad violates any of the Code’s provisions.  Nonetheless, we have decided not to run this ad again.”

A related print ad that we found in “In Style” Magazine suggests copying and posting a “post-it” note that provides an excuse for leaving the office early to go drinking with buddies.  That ad ironically includes the following advice from Anheuser-Busch (in miniscule print): “Responsibility Matters.”


For information related to Industry Watch, please send us an email.

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Bud Light “Referee Ad” Draws “Foul” from FTC


Related Links:


Federal Trade Commission Response

Full History of the "Referee Ad" Complaint



In the last edition of Washington Report we described the response CSPI got from Anheuser-Busch regarding our complaint that certain Bud Light ads clearly violated the beer industry’s voluntary advertising guidelines.  John Kaestner, A-B’s Vice-President for Consumer Affairs, told us that we lacked a sense of humor.  Well, apparently the monitors at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) aren’t laughing either.

Following up Anheuser-Busch’s failure to respond honestly to our complaint, CSPI went to the FTC to point out a central weakness in the Beer Institute’s consideration of ad complaints and its “enforcement” of advertising code violations.  The FTC review of our correspondence “has raised a concern about the procedures for addressing advertising complaints in the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code.”

The FTC concluded that “the public interest would be better served if the Beer Institute established an external process for consideration of its members’ code compliance.”  In critiquing the Beer Institute’s practice of allowing its members to be the sole arbiters of whether their ads comply with the code, the FTC pointedly hinted that Anheuser-Busch’s allegation that its ads do not “promote ‘illegal activity’” failed to respond to the code’s prohibition of advertising that portrays or implies illegal activity of any kind.  Not surprisingly, the ads soon disappeared.



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Direct Wine Shipments Upheld


Related Links:


Text of the Supreme Court Decision

2003 Federal Trade Commission Direct Shipping Study



On May 16, the Supreme Court struck down laws in Michigan and New York that prohibited out-of-state wineries from shipping their products directly to in-state consumers while allowing in-state wine producers to do so.  The Court held that such discriminatory treatment of out-of-state shippers constituted an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.  Those states, along with six others -- Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana and Ohio – will have to change existing laws on the matter.

Without overturning the essence of state control of alcohol commerce, the Court in this case determined that the Commerce Clause (Article III) trumped the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition.


The Court’s 5-4 majority opinion relied heavily on a 2003 Federal Trade Commission study of direct wine sales that recommended allowing both in- and out-of-state direct shipping.  The Court also summarily dismissed state arguments that the bans on out-of-state wine shipments were necessary to curtail access to alcohol by underage persons and ensure the orderly collection of taxes.  The extent to which this ruling will threaten the existing three-tier system of alcohol distribution has yet to be determined.

As things stand now, states that allow in-state direct shipping will also have to allow out-of-state direct shipping, or – in order to avoid treating interstate commerce in a discriminatory manner -- ban direct shipment altogether.  For example, when New Jersey’s discrimination against out-of-state shippers was challenged, that state opted to prohibit both in- and out-of-state direct shipping.  Maryland also bans both forms of direct shipment, and therefore its laws conform to this week’s ruling.

In a related note, Texas recently amended its laws to make it easier for producers to ship wine directly to consumers.  Although the state has been open to direct shipping by both in- and out-of-state operations since 2003, the state prohibited shipments to the so-called “dry” areas -- cities and counties that prohibit alcohol sales within their borders.  That exception created logistical problems for all wineries, and on May 9, Gov. Perry signed Senate Bill 877 into law, declaring the entire state “wet.”



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DISCUS Details Ad-Complaint Review Process


Related Links:


The DISCUS Code of Responsible Practices

The Ad-Review Report



In March, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) issued the first-ever public report on its code review board’s response to 15 complaints of print ad violations it received in 2004.  The liquor industry’s voluntary advertising code has been in place for 70 years, yet never before have the review board’s actions been publicly available.

DISCUS made the policy change to bolster its public image as an effective self-regulator.  “The rigor of the [Code Review] Board’s review process and adherence to the Board’s decisions have not been widely recognized,” noted DISCUS President Peter Cressy in a March 8 press release.  The strategy appears to be working: Janet Evans of the Federal Trade Commission noted in the Washington Post that DISCUS’s report “is a far step above and beyond what other companies are doing.”

The DISCUS Code Review Board consists of senior member-company representatives who are asked to review complaints about the content or placement of liquor advertising.  Of the 15 complaints in 2004, most came from competitors within the industry.  In 11 cases, the company agreed to take corrective action after being contacted by the code review board.  None of the companies that failed to comply were DISCUS members (DISCUS represents about 85 percent of all distillers).  The violation most frequently cited concerned the placement of print ads in periodicals with more than 30 percent youth readership.

DISCUS plans to publish future reports twice a year.


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Diageo Pushes State Underage Drinking Bills


Related Links:


Century Council “65 percent” Survey


Adolescent Alcohol Use: National Survey on Drug Use and Health, ch. 3


This year, Diageo, the global spirits company, has been unusually active in promoting state legislation aimed at curbing underage drinking.  Diageo, along with other organizations under an umbrella group called the Partners for Zero Tolerance For Underage Access, have introduced bills in many states to suspend the drivers’ licenses of adults convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.  Those bills exempt parents who provide alcohol to their own children.

Diageo’s “zero tolerance” bills have been floated in 17 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  Virginia recently passed its zero tolerance bill into law.  The Arizona bill cleared the House and Senate and has been sent to the governor, and in Colorado, where two underage college students died of alcohol poisoning last year, the bill is currently in committee.  According to Diageo, similar laws already exist in South Dakota and South Carolina.

Most states already penalize adults who provide alcohol to minors, usually through fines and short jail sentences.  This new approach adds a stiff new penalty: loss of driving privileges.  License suspensions for first-time offenders would vary from 30 days to six months, and further offenses would provide even tougher penalties, possibly a year’s license suspension or more.  Oregon’s bill (like other state laws) would provide for a hardship license, allowing a driver to commute to and from work during his/her suspension period.

Diageo’s effort relies heavily on a 2003 survey by the distiller-funded Century Council.  That poll found that 65 percent of underage consumers obtain their alcohol from friends and families, suggesting that commercial sellers and/or fake IDs are not central to the problem of underage access to alcohol.  Many officials believe the zero tolerance bills will provide substantial incentives for young adults (aged 21-25) to change their alcohol-purchasing behavior.  Currently, they’re a prime source of alcohol for their younger friends and siblings.

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Contact Information:

For more information, please send us an email.

Center for Science in the Public Interest
Alcohol Policies Project
1220 L St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC  20009
Phone: (202) 332-9110
Fax: (202) 265-4954


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