Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Bills Introduced to Extend Alcohol Health/risk Warnings to Advertisements

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Bills Introduced to Extend Alcohol Health/risk Warnings to Advertisements

Article excerpt

Bills Introduced to Extend Alcohol Health/Risk Warnings to Advertisements

Dear Reader:

A major legislative effort is under way to extend health and risk warnings, recently implemented for containers of alcoholic beverages, to advertising, including print media, radio and television and promotional displays. Sen. Albert Gore (D-TN) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D-MA) introduced identical bills in Senate and House requiring rotating warning statements about health and safety risks related to alcohol to be included in advertising of wine, beer and distilled spirits.

Alcohol Advertising

Announcement of the legislative effort was made at an April 4 Capitol Hill news conference by the two law-makers and representatives of the Coalition on Alcohol Advertising and Family Education - coordinated by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and made up of organizations ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to Remove Intoxicated Drivers.

Representatives of the advertising industry immediately attacked the legislation, warning that it could spell the end of 15-second and 30-second commercials for beer and wine on radio and television.

Kennedy introduced the House bill (HR-4493) on April 4, and Gore dropped identical legislation (S-2439) in the hopper the following day. Gore helped lead the successful legislative effort two years ago to mandate health/risk warnings on alcoholic beverage containers. He is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over labeling and advertising.

Entitled the "Sensible Advertising and Family Education Act," the bill would require rotating warnings that focus on drinking during pregnancy, drinking and driving, use of alcohol with other drugs, the addictive properties of alcohol, and the illegality of purchasing alcohol for those under 21. In addition, it would establish a federally-funded toll-free number, to be displayed with the warning statements, for those who need assistance or additional information.

The legislation provides that advertisements that fail to contain the warning statements would be considered an "unfair or deceptive act or practice" under Section Five of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

For print advertisements in magazines, newspapers, brochures and promotional displays, the legislation would require one of the following five specific health and safety warnings to be incorporated on a rotating basis: "SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Drinking during pregnancy may cause mental retardation and other birth defects. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and can't stop drinking, call (insert appropriate toll free number) "WARNING: Alcohol impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery. If you or people you love drink and drive, call (insert appropriate toll free number). "WARNING: Alcohol may be hazardous if you are using any other drugs such as over-the-counter, prescription, or illicit drugs. To find out what happens when you drink while using other drugs, call (insert appropriate toll free number). "WARNING: Drinking alcohol may become addictive. If you know someone who has an alcohol or other drug problem or has trouble controlling their drinking, call (insert appropriate toll free number). "WARNING: It's against the law to purchase alcohol for persons under age 21. For more information about the risks associated with alcohol use among teenagers and young adults, call (insert appropriate toll free number)."

For radio or television (including cable television) commercials, these shorter versions would be required: "SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Drinking during pregnancy may cause mental retardation and other birth defects. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy. "WARNING: Alcohol impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery. "WARNING: Alcohol may be hazardous if you are using any other drugs such as over-the-counter, prescription, or illicit drugs. …

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