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Alcohol Issues Insights

While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to collect and sift thru data from major alcohol beverage suppliers as part of its latest investigation of their marketing practices, it still hopes to complete its report by late summer-early fall, FTC's senior counsel Janet Evans told Miller distributors at the NBWA/ Brewers Legislative Conference in Washington last week. The Commission hasn't come to any conclusions yet, but it is likely to recommend suppliers expand their media-buying guidelines beyond traditional media to include newspapers, the internet and product placement in movies, Evans said. Meanwhile, she described the next phase of FTC's "Don't Serve Teens" web-based campaign as "Flip the Switch." The commission is asking wholesalers and retailers to distribute more of the campaign's written materials, including the suppliers' own programs like Miller's Respect 21, to consumers by this fall. Contrary to some claims, the underage drinking issue is not being "over-talked," in Evans' view, and parents need to be more informed about and engaged in preventing underage use. Meanwhile, several speakers at the Conference, including Miller's government affairs VP Tim Scully, raised the possibility of a new push to raise federal excise taxes on beer. While there hasn't been a serious threat…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 4
In yet another recent, thick report on underage drinking, the US Surgeon General's office added its voice to those many federal, state and local officials who want to adopt a comprehensive approach to prevention. In fact, the Surgeon General takes the widest view possible, concluding its Call to Action: "Underage alcohol use is everybody's problem - and its solution is everybody's responsibility." Unlike CASA (and indeed, previous Surgeons General) Acting SG Kenneth Moritsugu doesn't castigate the alcohol beverage industry per se. But his report does embrace the kind of fanatical zero tolerance approach that's likely to encourage increased restrictions. And it recommends a number of specific strategies along those lines, including several that CASA also advocates. Among them: "Eliminate alcohol sponsorship of athletic events and other social activities" at colleges and universities. Eliminate alcohol advertising from campus publications. Eliminate "low-price, high-volume drink specials, especially in proximity to college campuses, military bases, and other locations with a high concentration of youth." The SG's recommendations to industry about marketing don't vary much from what's already in the suppliers' marketing codes. For example, insuring messages don't "portray alcohol as an appropriate rite of passage" or an "essential element in achieving popularity, social success…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 3
"We believe that the time has come to consider changes to current" minimum age laws in the US. That's the bold conclusion of a report from Middlebury College President Emeritus John McCardell, Jr. after an exhaustive review of the issue. Recall that McCardell first publicly challenged the 21-yr-old law in a 2004 New York Times op-ed. And INSIGHTS reported on the initiation of this project in November 2005. His group's 200+ page White Paper titled "The Effects of the 21 Year-Old Drinking Age" aims not only to begin a "spirited debate," but also to serve as the basis to advocate for this fairly radical policy change. McCardell has launched a new non-profit group called "Choose Responsibility" to advance the report's key proposal: States should be allowed, without federal penalties, to "license young adults age 18 to 20 to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 2
A closer look at this year's Monitoring the Future Survey of student drinking and attitudes indicates significant long-term progress in reducing consumption and increasing disapproval of drinking among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. MTF has now built a 15-year series for key measures for each age group (a longer series is available for high school seniors). Almost all of the use patterns in the table below show the same trend: little progress in reducing monthly or so-called "binge" drinking from 1991 to 1996, but significant declines over the last decade. Every measure of use among each grade level declined by at least 10% over the last 10 years. Most striking: monthly use rates among 8th graders and binge drinking declined by 34% and 30% respectively from 1996 to 2006. Even among high school seniors, these rates dropped 11-12%. Not surprisingly, trends in disapproval of drinking moved in the opposite direction. While disapproval of both trying alcohol and weekend binges softened from 1991 to 1996, disapproval rates subsequently increased. Still, there remains a stubbornly large percentage of young people who either drink heavily at least on occasion (11-27%) and who apparently approve of the habit (18-32%). So the coalition of policymakers,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 1
It's interesting to parse the language of a new, widely reported "meta-analysis" that pooled results from 34 international studies of drinking and its effect on mortality risk. The analysis is especially robust. Ten of the studies had not been included in any previous, similar meta-analysis. The studies gathered data on over 1 million adults. Follow-up periods ranged from 5.5 years to 26 years with half of the studies having an average follow-up time of over 10 years. The results were remarkably positive: Overall, women who consumed 1- 2 drinks per day and men who consumed 2-4 drinks per day reduced their risk of death (over the course of the studies) by 15-18% compared to non-drinkers. Heavier drinkers had increased mortality risk. The reductions were fairly consistent whether adjusted for geography, age and/or social status. Why is the cut off point lower for women? The authors suggest that because women metabolize alcohol differently than men and reach higher BAC levels, they have higher risks for cancer. Also, since pre-menopausal women have low rates of heart disease, "the benefits of alcohol on total mortality may appear to be reduced," they add. One other interesting finding: "maximum risk reduction was in the range…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 12
While public health advocates have attacked beer marketing for years, there doesn't seem to be a huge public groundswell of ill will about television ads or other brewer efforts. Since the Beer Institute established its Code Compliance Review Board almost a year ago, the CCRB has passed judgment on only 3 television ads and 1 billboard. In each case, the Board disagreed with the suggestion that the ad violated the BI's voluntary guidelines. Looking at the 3 television ad complaints resolved in June, these viewers basically failed to appreciate their humor. One guy complained that a "Hidden Bud Light" ad was "lacking in humor or sarcastic commentary and is in no way amusing" and that the "Touch Football" ad for Michelob Ultra Amber (which shows a male hard-tackling a woman after catching a pass and ends with her knocking him off a bar stool) "seems to validate 'savage attacks.'" But the CCRB found that the Bud Light ad "clearly falls into the realm of parody or spoof" and that "Touch Football" seemed "entirely farcical and intended to suspend reality for the viewer." Similarly, the CCRB disagreed with a woman who complained that the Miller Lite Man Law "You Poke It,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2006
  • Volume 23
  • Issue # 11