Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers has joined 19 other state Attorneys General in sending comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the Commission 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.
The 20 Attorneys General are all members of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee. This bipartisan Committee was formed in July of 2004 and has 26 members. Attorney General Steve Rowe of Maine and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff of Utah chair the Committee. The Committee studies youth exposure to alcohol advertising and access to alcohol, educates state Attorneys General on ways to reduce access and change social norms about underage drinking, and partners with national and state entities to augment and enhance on-going efforts to stop underage drinking. The Committee has been examining the alcohol industry's marketing practices and the effectiveness of the industry's self-monitoring programs.
"Alcoholism is a widespread disease in the U.S., and the fact that people are starting to drink at an earlier age and more aggressively confirms the need to strictly monitor the alcohol marketing industry and its contributions, if any, to this crisis," Myers said. "Research proves that children who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin drinking at 21. The addiction and brain damage caused by alcohol is contributing to the loss of human potential in so many of our children. I find the increase of alcohol abuse among young people extremely troubling and urge the FTC to adapt its review of industry marketing practices to reflect today's culture."
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. 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.
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.
Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002