- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

And now a word from the teetotallers: According to a recent study by Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), nearly a quarter of the 209,000 alcohol ads that aired on television in 2001 were more likely to be viewed by underage drinkers than by those of legal age. Indeed, ads for booze aired on 13 of the 15 most-watched shows by teen-agers, including "Friends," "ER," Survivor" and "That '70s Show." America's "youth saw more commercials for beer than for juice, gum, chips, sneakers or jeans," the study notes.
The alcohol industry has voluntarily set a ban on itself not to advertise on television programs whose viewers are underage by more than 50 percent, and there's no reason to think that it's specifically targeting underage drinkers, but an age group that may include some. Indeed, the same shows are watched by a broad demographic swath, including Americans well into maturity. What's more, it's worth noting that teen-agers and the like spend more hours of the day watching television than older Americans, so it's no wonder that more underage viewers saw beer commercials.
But the folks at CAMY find all this deceptive. "The guidelines of the industry are bogus," Jim O'Hara, CAMY's executive director, told a reporter. "These standards do not protect youth from exposure and overexposure to alcohol advertising and marketing." And according to David Kessler, the Clinton FDA czar who slew Joe Camel, "No one is policing what the industry is doing, and the industry is in denial." It all sounds positively criminal, doesn't it?
Except that the $811 million in television ads spent by the booze business to supposedly hook kids hasn't worked. According to a joint study by the Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Michigan, illegal drug use, smoking and drinking among teens "declined significantly" in 2001. Indeed, the drop-off is a continuation of a teen trend towards moderation in recent years.
But you won't read about that in the CAMY report, because it's in the nannies' interests to worry moms and dads into believing that the sky is falling. After all, if things were getting better, the Kesslers of the world would be out of jobs. "Their goal is to tell you that things are worse than they've ever been," says John Doyle of the Center for Consumer Freedom. "This whole deal is part of an effort to promote a vision of reality that simply does not exist."
But it's a vision that may come to pass. "We think the Federal Trade Commission should re-open hearings and … see what is the right threshold to protect you from exposure to alcohol advertising," Mr. O'Hara says. In the past, CAMY has pushed limiting alcohol ads to programs whose underage audience is less than 25 percent. The American Medical Association suggests 15 percent, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocates for 10 percent. Rather than harass a wholly legitimate industry out of business and foolishly isolate young adults from (in moderation) one of life's simple and sociable pleasures, the worry warts should have a drink and leave the parenting to parents.

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