Dizzy Distillers

Distillers need to refine their mixed messages about alcoholic beverages.

On the one hand, the industry's own nonprofit Century Council, dedicated to fighting underage drinking and drunk driving, says it's concerned about a recent poll by health, education, and law-enforcement experts showing underage drinking remains a problem, especially with 9- to 15-year-olds. And the council's own studies find many parents aren't effectively communicating with their underage kids about the dangers of drinking.

At the same time, intense alcohol advertising efforts by the liquor industry, focused on youth, only exacerbates the problem.

In fact, a study done by Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found people between 12 and 20 years old saw more beer, distilled spirits, and "malternative" (malt-based beverages popular with young drinkers) ads in magazines than did adults over 21 last year.

What's worse, the center notes, some 25 different brands of alcoholic beverages placed all of their advertising in publications with "substantial" youth readership.

Although the study focuses on magazine advertisements, television and the Internet also remain hot spots for alcohol producers to lure youth drinkers.

The center recently highlighted a Boston Beer television ad titled "Noise," showing young people hiding beers when police arrive to respond to complaints. It appeared 119 times during episodes of "The Simpsons." Forty percent of the show's audience is in the 12 to 20 age group. The ad was pulled, but only after pressure from antidrinking groups.

Distillers and brewers cannot pursue PR campaigns to fight underage drinking, and at the same time engage in highly questionable, and often objectionable, manipulative sales techniques geared to enticing the underaged to drink.

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