In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

Spirits Producers Force 20/20 to Promote Alcohol Industry Spin

20-20IntoxicationNationOctober 22, 2012

On September 21, ABC news show 20/20 aired an investigation program called Intoxication Nation, which pointed out the extreme lengths that some youth in America are taking in order to binge drink, as well as some of the dangerous consequences associated with the underage drinking epidemic in the U.S. Apparently, the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS) was unhappy with the program, and didn't think that the DISCUS take on youth drinking – that spirits producers are wholly against underage drinking, are spending a great deal of money to prevent it, and that the alcohol industry is responsible for any decline in youth drinking – was adequately showcased by 20/20. In response, DISCUS immediately pressured 20/20 producers to use the show's airtime to articulate the spirits producers' agenda.*

In the end, ABC gave in to the pressures of the spirits producers and issued a completely unnecessary "correction;" one in which 20/20 anchor Chris Cuomo stated that “the industry is totally opposed to underage drinking” and “spends millions each year fighting the problem.” Cuomo went on to directly mention rates of youth drinking for which DISCUS and other alcohol industry members are taking credit, linking the industry’s fuzzy calculations, ineffective information programs, and public relations campaigns to any positive findings in youth drinking behaviors.

Just another example of money, power, and influence buying the alcohol industry exactly what it wants –  at the demise of public interest journalism and the public's health and safety.

*DISCUS member companies: Bacardi, Beam Global, Brown-Forman, Campari, Constellation Brands, Diageo, Florida Caribbean Distillers, Luxco, Moet Hennessy, Patron Spirits, Pernod Ricard, Remy Cointreau, Sidney Frank Importing, Suntory International

Big Alcohol Dives Headfirst into Youth-Friendly Drink Pouches

SmirnoffPouchOctober 2, 2012

A little over a year ago, Alcohol Justice called attention to a disturbing, new marketing/packaging brainchild – single-serve alcopops in soft-sided pouches that are cheap and highly portable - in other words, very appealing to youth . Since then, the product category has exploded from a fringe element made by start-up manufacturers like Gasolina to an integral portfolio product for some of the worlds largest brands like Diageo's Captain Morgan/Parrot Bay and Smirnoff. As multiple media sources have recently indicated, there are not many alcohol producers that haven't jumped on board with the idea.

Manufacturers across the country have started to produce their own versions of the shtick: sweet, flavored malt beverages sold in squeezable pouches that are easy to carry, easy to consume, and easy to conceal when entering venues that prohibit alcohol from being brought inside. Because the producers say they are malt-based, these Smirnoff and Captain Morgan/Parrot Bay pouches sit on the shelf alongside beer, and get the benefit of very low beer excise tax rates as well. And with their bright colors, snazzy flavors like Cherry Limeade, and frequent encouragement to freeze and serve like popsicles, these drinks appeal to young drinkers looking for the the next big thing. Even the Phusion Projects guys behind the ultimate frat-boy drink Four Loko jumped on board with their own take on the gimmick.
The pouch product category represents just one more format with which the industry attracts kids and infuses alcohol into every aspect of young people's lives – by replacing Capri Sun pouches with Phusion's Island Squeeze, and providing a new way to sneak alcohol into college football games and concert venues. And while alcohol corporations keep pushing the next packaging "innovation," states like Michigan may even help by giving them a little tax break on those packages.

Charlotte Area Transit System Sells Out to Alcohol Ads

PBR BusSeptember 18, 2012

While communities across the country focus on removing alcohol ads from public property, Charlotte, NC Metropolitan Transit Commissioners took their city a major step backward. In a unanimous vote last month, commissioners decided to overturn a longstanding ban on alcohol advertisements on Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) property – a move that will allow the exteriors of area buses and trains to be cloaked in advertisements for alcohol.  Approximately 20% of the transit system’s riders are under the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and thousands more will see the ads from the street, as the buses and trains pass their schools and homes each day.

Make no mistake about it: The research is crystal clear. Youth who are exposed to higher levels of alcohol advertising start drinking earlier than their counterparts. If they are already drinkers, they drink more. To add insult to injury, youth who are overexposed to alcohol advertisements also have more favorable attitudes and brand loyalty for alcohol corporations and their products.  In fact, each additional dollar per capita spent on advertising to youth markets leads to a 3% rise in underage drinking. Sixth and seventh graders exposed to high levels of alcohol advertising are 50% more likely to drink than children with low exposure to such marketing. Despite the facts available on the increased harm and risk from alcohol advertising, the Charlotte Area Transit System commissioners somehow justified putting the youth in their community at risk. But why?

The answer, of course, lies in the large amounts of money the alcohol industry is willing to spend to plant its brands into the minds of potential drinkers--including the young (underage) ones. For an estimated $600,000 in additional funding each year, the Metro Transit Commission brushed aside their responsibility to the public interest in favor of a quick fix to their financial shortfalls.

The shortsighted move did not go unnoticed by Charlotte officials or the general public. Some City Councilmembers, who were reportedly blindsided by news of the decision, expressed their intent to fight for repeal of the decision as soon as possible. The Mayor pro tem declared the decision to be “absolutely wrong.”

With two advertising contracts already signed, alcohol ads could show up on area buses and trains at any time. At the moment, the advertising company with the city contract has agreed not to move forward with alcohol ads. Meanwhile, the transit system awaits direction on this issue from the Commission, which is scheduled to meet this month.

Read More:

- Cash-Strapped CATS Turns to Alcohol Ads for Busses, Trains