Advertising Warning Legislation
America's brewers share a deep concern about excessive and abusive drinking as well as underage drinking. That's why the beer industry has an unparalleled record of commitment to combating alcohol abuse, spending tens of millions of dollars annually in education, research and public service campaigns across the country. These programs are working. In fact, every national alcohol abuse indicator has shown significant improvement over the past decade; and many are at the lowest levels ever recorded.
In spite of that progress, some groups continue to call for restrictions on beer advertising. One such proposal would require warning statements to be included in advertisements, in the hope of combating alcohol abuse. In fact, such a requirement would divert attention and resources from effective, anti-abuse programs, such as those supported by AmericaÕs brewers.
Consider the facts:
- The advertising of alcohol beverage products does not cause alcohol abuse or underage drinking. Contrary to what some critics claim, there is no significant evidence to support that link.
- Adjusting for inflation, advertising by the brewing industry has doubled since 1974. Despite this sizeable increase, per capita consumption has remained essentially stable, and almost every indicator of abusive and underage drinking has entered a steady period of improvement. Even with higher advertising expenditures, fewer young people are drinking illegally and more adults are drinking responsibly, than every before.
- According to both industry and government sponsored polls, there is almost universal understanding among the general public as to the dangers of excessive use of alcohol. For instance, polling research by the Roper Organization show that the public's understanding of the risks has reached near saturation levels.
- There is no empirical evidence that ad warnings would have any effect on the drinking patterns of Americans of any age, especially among alcohol abusers.
- The notion of ad warnings fails to distinguish between alcohol use and alcohol abuse. Since the vast majority of consumers drink responsibly and in moderation, warnings about the consequences of excessive consumption can seem inaccurate or misleading. For instance, adults know they can consume a glass of beer without the dire consequences associated with abusive drinking. Warnings that contradict peopleÕs everyday experiences lose all credibility.
- Moreover, warnings in beer advertising would add enormous costs and create confusing messages, thereby compelling brewers to reduce, and probably withdraw their broadcast advertising altogether. And since other forms of advertising and marketing are less efficient, the result would be fewer resources available for public service campaigns on alcohol abuse.
Over 80 million Americans drink beer responsibly. The six to seven percent of the population who abuse alcohol will not, or cannot, change their behavior as a result of warning messages included in advertisements. Thus, requiring warning statements in ads would serve no positive purpose, but it would have several damaging effects and should therefore be rejected.