Koop Urges Congress to Raise Taxes, Curb Advertising

The Alcoholism Report, June 1989 | Go to article overview

Koop Urges Congress to Raise Taxes, Curb Advertising


Koop Urges Congress to Raise Taxes, Curb Advertising

U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD, set forth a sweeping agenda for Congress in the battle against alcohol-impaired driving, including tough measures designed to reduce consumption and curtail advertising of alcoholic beverages which focus on lifestyle. At a June 15 hearing before the Senate Government Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), Koop went beyond the steps he endorsed two weeks earlier at a news conference releasing the recommendations of the Surgeon General's Workshop on Drunk Driving held in December (AR, Dec. 27).

Prevention

Stresses Additional Measures

to Reduce Drunk Driving

Representatives of the broadcast and alcoholic beverage industries, in their testimony, vigorously opposed the so-called "control of availability" measures backed by Koop, while Sen. Glenn appeared to lend a sympathetic ear, particularly to the proposed restrictions on TV advertising.

Stressing that his recommendations were his "personal views" and did not represent those of the Administration, Koop proposed increasing federal excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and equalizing taxes by alcohol content for beer wine and distilled spirits, with the resulting revenues dedicated to fund impaired driving prevention programs.

At the same time, the Surgeon General, who is scheduled to resign this summer after a tenure of eight years as the nation's top health officer, urged that Congress extend the warning label law enacted last year to include warning labels on all alcoholic beverage advertisements by November, 1989. Koop also urged elimination of tax deductions for alcohol advertising and promotions which focus on lifestyle rather than price and product.

Spokesmen for the National Association of Broadcasters, the Beer Institute, and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America focused their criticism on Koop's tax and advertising proposals, while reciting their own voluntary campaigns to curb drunk driving through public service announcements and other efforts designed to promote responsible consumption. But Sen. Glenn appeared unconvinced at the end of the testimony, telling the industry representatives: "I don't see how you can get away from the fact that the way things are presented on television - the attractiveness of the ads - contributes to the whole problem.

"It's a little bit like - it may be overstating it a bit - being a party to starting a fire and when it gets is out of control, you rush out and join the volunteer fire department and you're proud of that...You're so proud of the public service announcements and things like that to counter the problem you help start to begin with."

Koop, drawing from more than 200 recommendations, told the Committee that "to effectively reduce alcohol-impaired driving and its life threatening consequences, (Congress) must pass legislation to do the following: * "Require States to reduce the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from its present 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent immediately and to 0.04 percent by the year 2000. * "Require States to immediately establish a legal level of 0.00 percent for drivers under 21. * "Increase the federal excise tax or user fee on alcoholic beverages, and equalize by alcohol content for beer, wine and distilled spirits. * Earmark the revenues generated from the federal excise tax increase to fund impaired-driving prevention programs. * "Make chemical testing for BA mandatory for all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians injured or killed in a crash involving a motorized vehicle. * "Extend the warning label law to include warning labels on all alcoholic beverage advertisements by November 1989. * "Authorize and fund federal agencies to purchase advertising time for pro-health and pro-safety messages if substantially increased public service time and space do not become available. * "Eliminate tax deductions for alcohol advertising and promotions which focus on lifestyle rather than price and product. …

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