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For Immediate Release
May 16, 2006
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CURRAN 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.

   

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