In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

New York Gov. Cuomo Honors Alcohol Industry

CuomoSummitNovember 6, 2012

It reads like an Onion story, and yet it’s all too true: Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo invited alcohol producers to Albany for a summit about alcohol. Not to discuss how to the industry leaders can help reduce alcohol-related harm, as the public might hope to see from the leader of a state with major drinking problems. No, the Governor's state summit honored alcohol producers for their contribution to the state’s economy.  The summit was held at Governor Cuomo’s Executive Mansion, and featured an elaborate tasting room where more than 2 dozen wineries, breweries, and distilleries offered samples.

Besides commending the “phenomenal growth” of the New York State alcohol market, Governor Cuomo also committed $3 million from the state's coffers to fund ad campaigns for the alcoholic beverages. You heard that right: New York taxpayers will be subsidizing additional alcohol advertising, which leads to increased consumption and related harm. The producers and their products being advertised with taxpayer dollars are the same ones that already cause billions of dollars in economic harm each year. We have to wonder what the people who lost their homes to Hurricane Sandy think about that.

The story is so ludicrous, it's nearly laughable. But rather than a joke, it is another example of politicians pandering to the powerful alcohol industry in ways that directly subvert the interests of--and harm--their constituents.

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.