Alcohol Advertising

More recently, public interest groups such as MADD have focused on the alcohol industry's advertising campaigns, expressing concern that promotions for alcoholic beverages be restricted to avoid underage drinkers being exposed to these advertising campaigns. The debate was sparked by actions taken by the distilled spirits industry in November 1996, when the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States announced that it intended to change a policy that it had followed for 50 years—not to advertise its products on radio or television. The council justified its decision by arguing that the absence of advertising mistakenly gave the impression that its products were somehow "worse" than beer or wine and offered a commitment to ensure that its advertisements would target adults only.

The move drew a mixed response, with many (including then-president Bill Clinton) criticizing it as an irresponsible action. A subsequent study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examined whether the alcoholic beverage industry was doing enough to make sure that its advertisements did not appeal to underage drinkers. One step was to recommend that advertisements for these products not be shown in movie theaters showing movies designed for a younger audience

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Ad campaigns that use animated characters or animals to sell alcohol, like the Budweiser frogs, have been criticized by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving for encouraging children to drink. Budweiser pulled the successful ad because of the pressure.

(movies rated PG or PG-13, for example), on television programs with younger audiences, or on college campuses. The FTC did not go so far as to suggest that the government should step in to regulate the advertising of alcoholic beverages.

A five-year study is under way by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, examining whether alcohol advertisements affect the drinking behavior of young people. The results are scheduled to be published in 2003.

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