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January 25, 2001

For More Information

George Hacker
202-332-9110 ext. 343

Letter to President Bush and List of Supporters.

Alcohol Marketers Assailed for Targeting Kids During Super Bowl
President Urged to Challenge Beer and Liquor Ads

WASHINGTON - In a letter sent today, consumer, health, safety, and faith-based groups urged President Bush to oppose alcohol advertising that reaches millions of viewers under the legal drinking age, such as those scheduled for broadcast during the Super Bowl. The groups charge that Budweiser, Smirnoff Ice and other alcoholic-beverage advertisers will be flouting the recommendations of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by airing commercials that will reach as many as 33 million underage viewers during the game. That number represents some 40 percent of all the underage persons in the country.

The groups also asked President Bush and his Administration to:

  • examine the degree to which alcohol advertising inappropriately reaches and influences underage youth,

  • seek voluntary reforms or regulatory and legislative measures to reduce underage youths' exposure to alcohol advertising,

  • stop the expansion of distilled spirits advertising on radio and television, and

  • require broadcasters to balance advertising for alcoholic beverages with public health and safety messages about risks related to drinking and with effective messages to prevent underage alcohol consumption.

In the letter to President Bush the groups decried the serious erosion of the liquor and broadcast industries' former voluntary ban on broadcast liquor advertising. This year, Smirnoff Ice, a liquor-branded malt beverage, will advertise on local stations during the Super Bowl, indirectly promoting a popular brand of vodka to a huge number of youths. Anheuser-Busch, the exclusive network beer advertiser, will air eight ads C twice as many as the next leading advertiser.

A 1999 review by the Federal Trade Commission of self-regulation and voluntary advertising guidelines in the alcohol industry led to a recommendation that alcohol advertisers should raise their current standards for avoiding underage audiences. The Commission also called on advertisers to adopt "best practices" policies, which include not advertising on TV shows and in other media with the largest underage audiences.

"Unfortunately," said Paula Kemp, Associate Director of National Families in Action, "underage people are very much the targets, intended or not, of broadcast ads for alcohol. Those clever and funny beer ads, which have been among the most entertaining Super Bowl commercials in previous games, are especially popular among teens."

Alcohol is the most used drug by young people in the United States, accounting for thousands of deaths each year, including automobile crashes and accidents, suicides, homicides, burns, and drowning. According to government and academic research, the economic cost of underage drinking exceeded $58 billion in 1998. Many young people begin drinking by age 13, and by the 12th grade in high school, 30 percent get drunk at least once a month.

"We have an epidemic of underage drinking in this country," said George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Our children are at risk, and it makes no sense to allow alcohol marketers to increase the pressure on them to drink. We're asking President Bush to urge distillers to resume their voluntary ban on broadcast liquor ads, as President Clinton did in the past. Preventing underage drinking should be a bipartisan issue that reflects President Bush's interests in the welfare of children and families. We hope he'll pressure beer and liquor companies to do a better job of steering their advertising away from youthful audiences, such as those watching the Super Bowl."

Additional groups co-signing the letter to President Bush include: the National PTA, the National High School Coaches Association, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Children of Alcoholics, and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

EDITORS/REPORTERS NOTE: To view the letter to President Bush, please go to

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on food-safety and alcoholic-beverage issues. It is largely supported by over 800,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI led efforts to win passage of the law requiring warning labels on alcoholic beverages.