No to TV beer ads

A move is afoot in the United States to ban nationwide the advertising of beer and wine on television, on grounds the ads glamorize alcohol and contribute to the problems arising from drinking. The effort is being pushed by a coalition of organizations, led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Earlier this month a Senate subcommittee held hearings on the issue. The endeavor is worthwhile; organizations and individuals that care about young Americans should support it actively. Alcohol use results in considerable financial and health problems for America, as a broad spectrum of the public is increasingly realizing.

Getting beer and wine ads off TV will not be easy. Some analysts are now saying it is unlikely the Congress can pass a law this year that forbids TV advertising; the opposition, which includes broadcasters and the alcoholic beverage industry, is extremely powerful.

Hard liquor is not advertised on television, as the result of an agreement between liquor manufacturers and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Precedent exists for a ban on beer and wine advertising. Cigarette advertising has not been shown on TV since 1970; a year earlier the National Association of Broadcasters, under heavy pressure from the Federal Trade Commission, agreed to end all cigarette advertising on television. In 1971 the United States Supreme Court held that such a ban was constitutional, over the objections of tobacco companies, which claimed it violated the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

As proponents point out, the television ad drive is a logical extension of the increasingly successful nationwide effort to combat drunken driving.

Proponents are saying in effect that it is time to attack a more fundamental issue: the advertising of beer and wine that seeks to entice the impressionable young to drink by a variety of subtle but insistent messages.

These commercials are shown on television programs watched by the young, such as sporting events. Particularly reprehensible is the use of sports figures, role models for the young, to sell beer in the commercials.

The effort to ban these ads from TV comes when per capita alcohol consumption has been declining in the United States, and the alcoholic beverage industry is fighting to reverse the decline. Televised ads are not the only effort to woo the young: Some breweries are sponsoring highly promoted beer nights on college campuses, featuring their own brands. Already alcohol is the No. 1 abuse problem on college campuses today.

Action is warranted to reduce the specious appeal of alcohol to the young. Banning beer and wine ads from TV would be a good first step. ----30{et

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