America's brewers share a deep concern about excessive and underage drinking associated with the use of our products. 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 types of programs are working. In fact, every national alcohol abuse indicator has shown significant improvement over the past decade; many are at the lowest levels ever recorded.
However, studies indicate that another approach, of mandating health warnings on alcohol advertisements, proposed by U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., would not reduce alcohol abuse among any segment of the population. Instead, this legislation (S. 674 and H.R. 1823, respectively) promotes bad policy that would divert attention and resources from effective programs, like those supported by America's brewers, to combat abuse.
Consider the facts:
- The advertising of alcohol beverage products does not cause alcohol abuse or underage drinking. Contrary to what some believe, there is no 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.
- The seven rotating warnings contained in the Kennedy/Thurmond proposal provide the public with no new information.
- There is no empirical evidence that warnings would have any effect on the drinking patterns of Americans of any age, especially among alcohol abusers. Worse, these types of warnings could undermine the credibility of other government campaigns to provide information about serious risks which are not commonly known.
- The proposed warnings fail to distinguish between alcohol use and alcohol abuse, and taken literally, some are inaccurate or misleading. For instance, people know they can consume a glass of beer without the dire consequences predicted by such warnings, and warnings which contradict people's everyday experiences lose all credibility.
- These warnings on all beer advertising would add enormous costs and create confusing messages, thereby compelling brewers to withdraw their broadcast and print advertising support. As a result, there would be less 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 the proposed warning messages.
We should not be led to believe that simplistic warnings on alcohol beverages, such as those proposed by S. 674 and H.R. 1823, will do anything to solve the complex problem of alcohol abuse. Personal, not government, intervention is usually required.