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Washington Report

April 2004

Produced by the Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington Report provides online information and updates about federal and state 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


Osborne Resolution Encourages NCAA to Dump Alcohol Ads

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

Related Links:

CSPI Action Alert

Petition [PDF]

H.Res.575 [PDF]

Rep. Osborne's Press Release [PDF]

On Thursday, March 25, U.S. Representative Tom Osborne (R-NE), joined by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), introduced House Resolution 575, calling upon the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to end all alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of college sporting events.


The resolution is not binding legislation, i.e., it would not have the force of law, if passed.  It would simply express the opinion of the House, and send a strong message to the NCAA and higher education leaders that Congress recognizes the inappropriateness of beer advertising in college sports.


The bi-partisan measure presently has 13 co-sponsors.  Please contact your Representative today, and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.Res.575.

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SAMHSA Leads New Federal Inter-Agency Committee on Underage Drinking

Related Links:

Letter to IICCUD

Omnibus appropriations legislation signed into law last January mandated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take steps to improve federal coordination on underage drinking prevention and prepare a national plan for combating this major public health problem.  A report on progress toward developing such a plan is due to be submitted to the House and Senate Labor-HHS appropriations committees by April 29, 2004.


HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson designated the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the lead agency to head this effort, which also involves:  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Office of the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Administration for Children and Families.


On February 18, members of the public health, prevention, and faith communities met with Charles Curie, Administrator of SAMHSA, and other SAMHSA representatives to discuss their plans for the Congressionally mandated plan and present priority areas for action including:

  1. an adult-focused national media campaign on underage drinking as the centerpiece of a comprehensive national plan;

  2. improved federal coordination and leadership on underage drinking; and

  3. increased resources for states and communities.

On April 13, the newly formed Inter-Agency Committee met for the first time.  CSPI, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free, the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association (NLLEA) and a host of alcoholic-beverage representatives provided brief testimony to principals of the member agencies.


Administrator Curie said that the national strategy should focus on three broad goals:

  1. instilling a broad societal commitment to reducing underage drinking;

  2. reducing rates of underage alcohol use; and

  3. raising the average age of initiation (age of first drink).

He asked member agencies to prepare inventories of their current activities aimed at underage drinking prevention and offer recommendations for how the agencies' current or planned activities could support the stated goals.  He noted that the committee would meet at the staff level in the coming weeks, and the principals (agency heads) would convene again in June.


A group of ten national organizations sent a joint letter to the Committee, urging its members to develop a plan based on the NAS recommendations, and reminding them of the NAS' statement that, "the problem of underage drinking in the United States is endemic and, in the committee's judgment, is not likely to improve in the absence of a significant new intervention."  CSPI will continue to monitor the Inter-Agency Committee's work and encourage adoption of a comprehensive federal plan on underage drinking that reflects and incorporates the NAS recommendations.

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CPAP/National Alliance Update

Related Links:

CPAP Website

The Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems (CPAP) met on March 31 to discuss the status of federal advocacy efforts concerning:

  • advancing the National Academy of Sciences' recommendations for a national strategy to prevent underage drinking

  • Rep. Osborne's H.Res.575 (see article)

  • HHS/USDA preparation of new (2005) Dietary Guidelines on alcohol

  • TTB initiatives (malternatives rule, labeling petition, low-carb claims)

Members discussed plans to form a new National Alliance to Prevent Underage Drinking, aimed at advancing the NAS report's recommendations.  A core group of national organizations (CPAP and non-CPAP) conceived and initiated the Alliance after the NAS report's release, and the ad-hoc coalition will soon be launched nationwide.  The Alliance will reach beyond CPAP membership and seek to involve national, state and local organizations in building support for stronger federal action and a national plan on underage drinking prevention.  CSPI circulated the Alliance's statement of purpose and members agreed to report back on whether their respective organizations would join the new Alliance.


Members further agreed to consider signing on to two joint letters:

  • to the House in support of H.Res.575; and

  • to SAMHSA and members of the newly forming "Inter-Agency Committee on Underage Drinking Prevention" regarding coalition priorities for the establishment of a national strategy on underage drinking (see article).

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TTB Issues Preliminary Regulations on Calorie and Carbohydrate Claims

Related Links:

TTB Press Release

TTB Ruling 2004-1 [PDF]

Ingredient Labeling Petition

WR article on "Alcohol Facts" Label

On April 8, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued interim rules for the advertising and labeling of calorie and carbohydrate content in alcoholic beverages.  TTB expressed concern that consumers may be confused about low-carb products and about direct and indirect health-related claims that might appear in some advertising and labeling.


In particular, TTB wants to avoid statements or inferences that the low-carb drinks are part of a healthful diet or weight-loss program.  Recently, many brewers and distillers have jumped on the popular low-carb diet bandwagon, implicitly suggesting that alcoholic beverages should be part of a weight-loss regimen.


TTB's ruling will allow producers to make low-carb claims only for products that contain 7 grams of carbohydrates or less per 12-oz serving.  Regular beers contain about 11 grams of carbohydrates and light beers generally contain between 5 and 7 grams per 12-oz serving.  Anheuser-Busch's heavily-advertised Michelob Ultra has 2.6 grams of carbs per serving and Bud Light has 6.6 grams.  Producers can identify drinks as "reduced carbohydrate" or "lower carbohydrate," but only if the carbohydrate content is greater than 7 grams per serving and but less than the amount of carbs in the standard version of the product.  Those statements must be accompanied by a comparison of the carb content of the regular and "reduced carb" products.   Low-carb claims in labeling and advertising must be accompanied by disclosure of the beverage's average analysis, including information on calories, carbs, protein, and fat.  This information is currently provided on light beers.


Last December, CSPI, the National Consumers League (NCL), and other organizations petitioned TTB to require "Alcohol Facts" labels on all alcoholic-beverage containers.  That label would include information about alcohol content, serving size, the number of standard drinks per container, number of calories per serving, and ingredients.  TTB plans to propose more comprehensive labeling rules in the near future.

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2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Related Links:

CSPI Action Alert

CSPI's Comments [PDF]

2005 Dietary Guidelines Website

In March, CSPI submitted comments on alcohol consumption to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  Although we believe the current Guidelines are essentially sound, we suggested a few improvements in the following areas:

  1. provide an expanded explanation why children and adolescents should avoid drinking;

  2. strengthen cautions related to drinking by older adults and the elderly; and

  3. refine information about the alcohol and calorie content in standard servings of drinks.

The committee will accept comments throughout the deliberation process, which will end this June.  We urge you to submit your own remarks as soon as possible.  You can find talking points in our Action Alert.  Please send comments to:


Kathryn McMurry

HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Room 738-G, 200 Independence Ave SW

Washington, DC 20201

Email: dietaryguidelines@osophs.dhhs.gov

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Stop Repeal of the Special Occupational Tax

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The House of Representatives did not include a provision to repeal the Special Occupational Tax (SOT) on alcohol producers, wholesalers, and retailers in the House version of the transportation re-authorization bill (H.R. 3550, "The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users"), which passed the House on March 31, 2004.  The Senate bill was amended to include the SOT repeal.  The two bills must now be reconciled by a House/Senate conference committee, which will meet in the coming weeks.  We expect the SOT repeal to die in conference, but we are watching closely.


The SOT is a federal excise tax levied on all businesses that manufacture, distribute, or sell alcohol products.  Liquor, beer, and wine retailers pay a tax of $250 per store.  Wholesalers are assessed a tax of $500, while producers are charged $1,000.  The tax generates about $120 million annually in revenue to the federal government.  Evidence suggests, however, that compliance is lax.  Conservative estimates gauge that as much as $50 million to $70 million goes uncollected annually.  Alcohol prevention and enforcement advocates believe the tax should be used to support efforts to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and underage drinking.


Stay tuned for further updates and more on a comprehensive future strategy to preserve the SOT and dedicate SOT revenues to underage drinking prevention.


Ralph Hingson Joins NIAAA

Related Links:

NIAAA Press Release

Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., a leading researcher and expert on drunk driving legislation, has joined the NIAAA as Director of Epidemiology and Prevention Research.  Prior to his appointment, Dr. Hingson served as an Associate Dean of Research at Boston University School of Public Health and Professor and Chair of BUSPH's Social and Behavioral Sciences Department.


Dr. Hingson's many contributions to the alcohol policy field include research supporting zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers and laws lowering legal blood alcohol levels to 0.08 BAC.  He also provided assistance in developing the National Academy of Sciences' recent Report to Congress on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking.  Dr. Hingson is a real champion for improved health and safety for young people.

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Advocacy News


Big Bellies Warn About High-Calorie Alcopop Drinks

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

Related Links:

CSPI Alcopops Page


CSPI Press Release

Ingredient Labeling Poll Summary [PDF]

Ingredient Labeling Detailed Tables [PDF]

More info on alcopops

Just in time for spring break, CSPI launched a targeted advertising campaign on college campuses to highlight the high calorie content of sweet-tasting, youth-oriented alcopop drinks such as Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Silver, and Skyy Blue.


The prominent half-page ads appeared in campus newspapers of schools identified by the Princeton Review as the top party schools in the U.S.: University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Indiana University at Bloomington, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Washington and Lee, as well as at the University of Maryland at College Park.  Those ads revealed that one alcopop contains more calories than a Krispy Kreme donut or a package of Twinkies.


Previous polling conducted for CSPI last September disclosed that most Americans, including young consumers, pay attention to their calorie intake, but were largely unaware of the high number of calories in alcopops.  CSPI polling on consumer awareness of alcohol calories and their attitudes about alcohol-labeling should help strengthen efforts to require calorie and ingredient labeling of all alcoholic beverages.


Since the ads appeared in college papers, we have received numerous requests to reproduce them for other campus activities.  If you'd like to use it, just let us know.

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Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV

Related Links:

USA Today Article

CSPI Action Alert

H.Res.575 Action Alert

Campaign Website

The Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV continues to build momentum and gain allies.


Since asking the president and athletic director at every school in the NCAA to sign our "College Commitment" in January, 116 colleges and universities, more than 10 percent of the NCAA, have signed on.  That list grows almost every day.


The Campaign and the issues it raises have generated significant press attention in USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, on the Gannett wire service, and in multiple trade papers.


Members of Congress have expressed concern about beer ads in college sports broadcasts as well, as evidenced by the introduction of H.Res.575, Rep. Tom Osborne's resolution urging the NCAA to remove alcohol ads during its broadcasts (see article).


We thank all of our supporters and 157 endorsers for recruiting others, responding to action alerts, and raising this issue with local colleges and universities and legislators.  If your organization has not yet endorsed the Campaign, please join our effort to reduce youth exposure to alcohol ads during sports event broadcasts.  Just fill out an endorsement form on our website and send or fax it to us.


There is much you can do to further this issue in your community.  The Campaign urges all interested individuals and groups to take the following actions:

  1. Send a letter to the college president of your alma mater, your hometown team, or of the team you root for on television.  Urge the college's leaders to sign the College Commitment, which is a pledge to remove alcohol ads during TV and radio college sports broadcasts.  You will find quick talking points to include in your letter in the action center on our website.

  2. Call, e-mail, or fax your U.S. Representative with a request that s/he co-sponsor H.Res.575.  For further information about this resolution and how to convey its importance to your legislator, please see the action center on our website.

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From the Front: Alcohol Excise Tax Battles in the States

Related Links:

2004 State Tax Updates

CSPI State Alcohol Tax Reports

CSPI's Testimony in Maryland [PDF]

Although there are no victories to report yet this year, alcohol excise tax bills continue to be considered in statehouses around the country.  Here's a short, partial overview of state-level tax action.


Several governors have expressed support for raising alcohol excise taxes.  Gov. John Rowland (R-CT) included a 10 percent increase in the state’s alcohol taxes in his annual budget plan.  Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) proposed replacing the excise taxes on all alcoholic beverages and the liquor-case sales tax with an increase in the wholesale sales tax on all beverage types.  This would build in growth in tax revenues tied to future price increases.  Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) sought to increase the mark-up on liquor from 64 to 75 percent, which would raise $35 million in new revenues.  The House defeated that proposal in late April.


Maryland's alcohol tax increase bill, like those in Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico, remains in legislative committee.  On March 19, CSPI testified before the Maryland House Ways and Means Subcommittee in support of H.B. 889, a bill to triple the state's alcohol tax rates.


When a South Dakota alcohol tax increase bill was defeated in committee, supporters of the measure decided to go directly to the voters with a ballot initiative.  This drive is lead by county commissioners seeking new revenue to meet the increasing costs of law enforcement and criminal prosecutions.


The alcohol tax issue has also been prominent in Kansas, where legislators have held several debates and votes on the matter.  An alcohol tax increase bill was attached to a popular, yet controversial, Sunday sales bill; then an alcohol tax increase measure was tied to the funding of public schools. Both were ultimately defeated in the Senate.  One more bill remains in committee awaiting consideration.


CSPI tracks alcohol tax legislation and works with select states on grassroots advocacy around tax issues.  Please visit our website for frequent state tax updates, sample state tax reports, advocacy documents to help raise alcohol taxes in your state, and other information.


If there is movement on alcohol tax issues in your state, please contact Ann Boonn.  Please contact Amy Gotwals if you would like advocacy assistance.


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State Responses to NAS Underage Drinking Report

Related Links:

November 2003 WR article

The November 2003 Washington Report included examples of how state activists were responding to the National Academy of Sciences' report on underage drinking.  New Hampshire, California, New Jersey, and Texas were the four states profiled in that issue.


New Hampshire advocates are continuing to work on a state plan to reduce underage alcohol problems and will convene a statewide strategy session on May 24.  John Bunker, President of New Futures, the NH organization leading the effort, is seeking information from other states working on similar initiatives.  If your state is focused on developing a response to underage drinking, or would like to, please contact John Bunker.


Please share all your latest local and state efforts to leverage the NAS report to bolster your underage drinking reduction programs.  Send them to Amy Gotwals so we can reference them in future updates from the field.

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New Online Tool Calculates the Cost of Underage Drinking

Related Links:

Alcohol Cost Calculator for Kids

Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems

Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at the George Washington University Medical Center released its newest online resource, the Alcohol Cost Calculator for Kids, aimed at community members, health and safety advocates, policy makers, and educators.  This tool enables users to estimate the number of youth in their community who may need alcohol treatment, and to quantify the associated alcohol-related problems those youth face, including arrests, low grades, drug problems, impaired driving, emergency room visits, lost school days, and more.


The information can be used to tailor policy proposals and advocacy materials with statistical data specific to states and communities.  This user-friendly resource shows concise information with the option of printing out a report.

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Director Appointed at New Youth and Alcohol Research Center

Related Links:

JoinTogether Press Release

David Rosenbloom, current director of the non-profit organization JoinTogether, has been appointed as director of the new Center to Prevent Alcohol-Related Problems Among Young People at the Boston University School of Public Health.  The Center, funded by a $10 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), will perform research projects and set up public seminars and workshops.

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Industry Watch


CSPI and MADD Counter Beer Industry Lobbying Blitz

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

Related Links:

Roll Call Ad [PDF]

Hill Flyer [PDF]

Expanded Issue Information

Beer industry representatives swarmed the U.S. Capitol April 25-28 during their annual legislative conference.  Key themes for industry propaganda this year included:

  1. the continuation of perennial lobbying to slash the federal excise tax on beer by 50 percent;

  2. public relations efforts to portray the beer industry as "part of the solution" to underage drinking problems; and

  3. attempts to downplay the extent and seriousness of underage drinking as a public health issue, and forestall meaningful federal action on a national strategy to reduce underage drinking.

MADD and CSPI responded to Big Beer with a full-page Roll Call advertisement and a series of related flyers delivered to all Hill offices.

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Anheuser-Busch Promotes Beer in the South Beach Diet

Related Links:

Anheuser-Busch Ad [PDF]

Anheuser-Busch Press Release

CSPI Ingredient Labeling Petition

On April 22, Anheuser-Busch placed advertisements in 31 newspapers, criticizing the South Beach Diet for spreading inaccurate information regarding the carbohydrate content in beer.  The ads capped a weeks-long challenge to South Beach Diet guru Dr. Arthur Agatston's claim that beer contains carbohydrates worse than those in sugar, ultimately leading to "beer bellies."


A-B's deceptive ad ignored the beer-gut calories in beer and implied that all beer is "low-carb" and suitable for a diet.  Budweiser has 10.6 grams of carbohydrate per serving, more than the 7 grams per serving TTB recently defined as the upper limit for beers making "low-carb" claims.  Seems as if the South Beach Diet was cutting into sales...

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Peter Coors Enters U.S. Senate Race

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Budweiser may be the "King of Beers."  Miller, the "President of Beers."  And now, Coors wants to be the "Senator of Beers."  Peter Coors, Chairman of Coors Brewing Company, recently announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Colorado.


The National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA) immediately declared its support of the beer champion and arranged a fund-raiser at its Washington legislative conference.


If elected, he would succeed Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R), who will retire at the end of the current Congress.  He plans to focus on job creation and making permanent President Bush's tax cut package.  We wonder whether he'll also lead the charge to repeal the 1991 increase in federal excise taxes on beer.




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

Washington Report has been produced with the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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