New Bills Introduced to Require Alcohol Warnings on Advertising

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NEW BILLS INTRODUCED TO REQUIRE ALCOHOL WARNINGS ON ADVERTISING

A major drive to require rotating health and safety warnings on alcoholic beverage advertising was renewed as a bipartisan group of Senators and House members introduced the 1991 Sensible Advertising and Family Education (SAFE) Act.

The effort was kicked off at a Capitol Hill news conference where the primary sponsors -- Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) -- were joined by other lawmakers and representatives of groups belonging to the Coalition on Alcohol Advertising & Family Education in calling for action on the SAFE measure. Similar legislation was introduced in the last Congress (AR, April, '90).

Thurmond introduced the Senate bill (S-664) on March 14, while Kennedy dropped the companion House measure (HR-1443) into the hopper the same day. Joining Thurmond was Sen. Albert Gore (D-TN) with other Senators reportedly ready to sign on as co-sponsors. The House bill was co-sponsored by Reps. John R. Kasich (R-OH), Constance Morella (R-MD), Nicholas Mavroules (D-MA), Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH), Wayne Owens (D-UT), George Miller (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Bill Orton (D-UT), Ron De Lugo (D-VI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), William Lehman (D-FL), and Ben Jones (D-GA).

Under the bill, all alcoholic beverage advertising, including radio and television blurbs, would be required to carry one of five health and safety warning messages on a rotating basis one year after enactment. As spelled out in the legislation, the messages would include:

1. SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Drinking during pregnancy may cause mental retardation and other birth defects. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

2. WARNING: Alcohol impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery.

3. WARNING: Alcohol may be hazardous if you are using any other drugs such as over-the-counter, prescription, or illicit drugs.

4. WARNING: Drinking alcohol may become addictive.

5. WARNING: It's against the law to purchase alcohol for persons under age 21.

For print advertising and promotional materials, the messages would include information on a toll-free 1-800 number, to be established and operated by HHS, for callers to get more information and resources. Broadcast commercials would have the warning message read, and for television, a graphic representation of the warning message must be included in each advertisement as the warning is read. The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for developing regulation for carrying out the law. Advertisers would develop plans for FTC approval, describing how they would rotate the messages in their ads.

Kennedy said the SAFE Act would "counteract the millions of dollars of misleading alcohol advertising that Americans are inundated with every year -- advertising that promotes the glamour of alcohol use with no mention of its consequences."

Thurmond told the news conference that "alcohol advertising is the single greatest source of alcohol education for Americans, and rarely does it encourage them to consider the consequences of drinking."

Among other statements of strong support, Rep. …