May 16, 2006
URGES FEDERAL COLLECTION OF ALCOHOL MARKETING SPENDING DATA TO
CURB THIRST FOR UNDERAGE DRINKING
Last week Attorney General Curran and 19 other
state Attorneys General sent comments
urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
to take a hard look at the role alcohol marketing plays in promoting
underage consumption. The comments were sent in response to the
FTC’s request for input into whether it should collect information
from alcohol advertisers and what information should be collected
regarding their sales and marketing expenditures, compliance with
the alcohol industry’s self-imposed regulatory codes and
the status of complaint procedures about industry advertising.
As a member of the bipartisan National Association
of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee, Curran
and the other
25 Committee members have been examining the alcohol industry’s
marketing practices and the effectiveness of the industry’s
self-monitoring programs specifically as they relate to youth exposure
to alcohol advertising.
"Alcohol is the most commonly used illegal drug among youth
across the country and here in Maryland," said Attorney General
Curran. “Nationally, young people are starting to drink at
an earlier age and are drinking more aggressively than ever before.
We are troubled by this growing thirst for alcohol among young
people. We believe this thirst is driven by a culture of drinking
created in part by alcohol industry marketing."
Citing recent research that links exposure to alcohol advertising
with both onset of drinking and an increase in underage drinking,
the Attorneys General agreed that it is in the public interest
for the FTC to collect updated data from alcohol advertisers, including
data on expenditures, marketing practices and independent review
procedures. They encourage the FTC to request information on actual
alcohol marketing expenditures, including on expenditures for both
measured (including television, radio, print, web-based and outdoor)
and unmeasured (branded merchandise, sports and entertainment sponsorships,
point-of-purchase promotion, movie and television product placement,
college marketing and bar promotion) marketing activities. Unmeasured
advertising reaches audiences for which no demographic information
is available. The Attorneys General urged the FTC to learn what
steps the industry has taken to ensure compliance with industry
standards in relation to these expenditures.
The alcohol industry currently operates under a series of voluntary
standards, all of which require that advertising be placed only
when 70 percent or more of the audience is 21 or older (which is
the same as requiring that no more than 30% of the audience is
under age 21). The percent of television viewers, radio listeners
and magazine readers is determined by ratings agencies who sell
demographic data to advertisers. The comments call on the FTC to
not only review industry compliance with the current advertising
standards but to examine whether the current standards are adequate
to protect against the overexposure of underage youth to alcohol
advertisements. Overexposure occurs when youth are over-represented
in the audience exposed to the advertising, relative to their presence
in the general population.
Attorney General Curran explained, "We have asked the FTC
to explore whether it is appropriate to change the current standard
to one where advertising would be limited to media where no more
than 15% of the audience is age 12 to 20. This standard takes into
account two important realities: Radio and magazine demographic
information is available only for listeners and readers over age
12; just over 15% of the population is between ages 12 and 20.
We believe the current voluntary industry standard – allowing
up to 30% of the audience to be under age 21 – overexposes
youth to alcohol advertising and is unacceptable."
Finally, the comments call on the FTC to further
review the sufficiency and efficacy of alcohol advertisers’ pre-placement
review and third party complaint review procedures.
For other recent news related to preventing overexposure
of youth to alcohol advertising, see Attorney General Curran’s March
21, 2006 announcement that members of the alcohol distilled spirits
industry agreed to remove their alcohol advertisements from school
library edition of five popular magazines. With regard to his success
in stopping a promotion that encouraged irresponsible and excessive
consumption of alcohol, see also Attorney General Curran’s
December 14, 2005 announcement Curran’s Complaint Halts Tobacco
Company Promotion that Encourages Binge Drinking.
Click here to see the comments sent to the FTC.