Connecticut's attorney general, who was involved in the 46-state lawsuit against tobacco companies, today warned that liquor companies could be next to face legal action unless they modify advertising policies.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he would write to the Federal Trade Commission to urge it to make certain that ads for pop-like malt beverages from hard-liquor marketers -- such as Smirnoff Ice, Captain Morgan Gold and Bacardi Silver, among others -- aren't appealing to teens or running in programming for teens.
Mr. Blumenthal made his comments at a press conference in which the Center for Science in the Public Interest unveiled a survey that said teens viewing ads for malt products see the ads as being for their hard-liquor siblings.
The attorney general added, however, that voluntary steps by the liquor industry to toughen advertising codes would advert any need for action. He said he would meet with some liquor
companies to urge them to act voluntarily.
Mr. Blumenthal said if the liquor industry fails to do so, he may consider state consumer protection charges. Mr. Blumenthal said state attorneys general had talked about underage binge drinking as a problem, but hadn't talked extensively about taking action on liquor advertising.
The FTC, which was petitioned a year ago by CSPI to take action on the ads, in June closed a joint investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into malt beverage ads. The FTC said "available information" does not support the group's allegation that the products are "targeted to minors," but did show a need for better labeling the products' alcoholic content.
George Hacker, director of alcohol policies for CSPI, said the survey unveiled today shows 77% of teens watch TV after 9 p.m. and see many of the ads for the products as ads for hard liquor.
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., warned that Congress would not sit by if alcohol companies don't act.
Liquor companies and trade groups rejected the charges. The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. called the press conference a "publicity stunt rerun" while the Beer Institute said that "there is no credible evidence" to support claims that the ads lead to abuse or underage drinking.
Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. July 16, 2002
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