Responsible Ads on Drinking

Television ads that promote "responsible" drinking and are produced by the alcoholic beverage industry are far less prevalent than ads for those products. In fact, the ratio was less than 1 to 200 during the year 2002, according to Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

"Responsibility" ads carry important messages - such as warnings about drinking and driving and the need for drinkers to use a designated driver. But between 2001 and 2002, the number of those ads dropped by 46 percent, while the number of alcohol commercials went up a disappointing 39 percent.

Further, the center reports that young people aged 12-20 were 400 times as likely to see an alcohol product ad as a message discouraging underage drinking. Even adults were 97 times as likely to see an alcohol ad as a responsibility ad.

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Last year, the alcoholic beverage industry promised the Federal Trade Commission it would advertise its products only in media for which less than 30 percent of the audience is below the legal drinking age. (Even that was considered progress, since the previous level was 50 percent.)

Last fall, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine recommended ways to reduce underage drinking. One finding: the need to create a national media campaign aimed at adults because increasing adult understanding of the problem should help offset the high incidence of alcohol use among young people.

The alcoholic beverage industry can help such a campaign by paying for more public service messages on responsible drinking.

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