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"At NBC, we are very conscious of our obligation to act responsibly in the best interests of our viewers."

Randy Falco president of the NBC Television Network.



Hard Alcohol Ads Air on NBC

For nearly fifty years the major television networks have adhered to a voluntary ban on hard liquor advertising.  That's over. 

General Electric's NBC has entered a multi-million dollar contract with Guinness-UDV whose alcohol brands include: Tanqueray gin, Johnnie Walker scotch, Smirnoff Vodka, and Smirnoff Ice. NBC's decision to break their voluntary ban and air the liquor ads will have a negative impact on the problems of substance abuse, increase the amount of alcohol advertising and pressure to drink to which the public is exposed. In the spirit of keeping up with the Joneses, it is possible the other major networks will follow NBC's lead. 

Alcohol is a contributing factor to violence and many injuries, including traffic crashes, burns, drownings, and other injuries. These injuries, health problems, and deaths cost our society a great deal, financially and emotionally. The Trauma Foundation firmly believes that keeping liquor advertising off of television is an important component for preventing alcohol-related injuries and violence. 

What You Can Do!
If you are concerned about NBC's decision, you are not alone. In a recent survey, 68 percent of respondents opposed NBC's action; 70 percent of Americans agreed that it is dangerous to have liquor ads on TV because they will introduce young people under the legal drinking age to liquor. (CSPI 

Write to CBS, ABC, FOX, and WB to congratulate them on their commitment to voluntarily banning hard liquor advertisements. And write to NBC and express your disappointment and outrage about their decision to air hard liquor ads on their network. Feel free to make use of the information and statistics below to include in your letters.  

What's the Big Deal? 
The alcohol beverage industry currently spends more than a billion dollars annually promoting drinking in well orchestrated marketing, with full understanding of the importance of how their products must be priced, placed and promoted. They understand that their products must be specifically designed for various segments of our society. They know their market, and they know what strategies increase their market. 

The decision to market hard liquor on television may well be the harbinger of an array of new alcoholic products designed to be marketed in new, aggressive ways to specific segments of our society, including those who might not respond to beer ads. For example, women probably are a market viewed as unsaturated by the alcohol industry. 

You can be sure they know their best customers are heavy drinkers -- those approximately eleven percent who drink about two-thirds of the alcohol produced in the U.S. The alcohol industry is quite aware that the heaviest drinking segment of our society is men between 18 and 30 years of age. (Moore and Gerstein, D.R. eds. Alcohol and Public Policy: Beyond the Shadow of Prohibition. National Academy Press, 1981; p. 27.) The new television ads will certainly target this segment of the population as well, with their full arsenal of sex, power, and success fantasies linked to drinking. 

What's Wrong with this Picture? 
Youth drink alcohol, including hard liquor, and experience substance abuse problems. 80 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol. (2000 Monitoring the Future Study) and 75 percent of 11th graders report drinking alcohol in the past six months. 

Underage drinkers are consuming beer, wine, and hard liquor. Between 2000 and 2001, more than 62 percent of 12th grade students reported using beer on an annual basis, 54 percent reported using wine coolers, and 62 percent reported drinking liquor. In the same period, more than 40 percent of 12th graders reported using beer monthly,  25 percent used wine coolers monthly, and 37 percent drank liquor on a monthly basis. (Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education/ PRIDE 2001

According to the most recent Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) Report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of adolescents aged 12 to 17 admitted to addiction treatment has increased 20 percent between 1994 and 1999, of which a staggering 47 percent were due to alcohol abuse. 

The total cost of alcohol abuse by youth--including traffic crashes, violent crime, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisonings and treatment--is more than $58 billion per year, equivalent to more than $200 for every man, woman, and child in the country. (Pacific Institute for Research and  Evaluation in support of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program (1999). 

People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at 21. (Hawkins and Catalano. "Risk and Protective Factors for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems in Adolescence and Early Adulthood: Implications for Substance Abuse Prevention, 1989.) 

The alcohol industry targets youth and profits from youth consumption. The alcohol industry uses images that appeal to children and young people. Marketing messages by beer manufacturers use images and messages that are highly attractive to young people. Research has shown that children as young as fourth and fifth grades were able to identify animal characters with a specific beer brand. (Leiber. "Commercial and Character Slogan Recall by Children Aged 9-11 Years: Budweiser versus Bugs Bunny" Center on Alcohol Advertising, Trauma Foundation, 1996.) 

Youth consumption of alcohol accounts for approximately 10 percent of all alcohol sales, according to a survey conducted by the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. 

The alcohol industry acknowledges measured advertising (advertising in print, on TV, radio, and outdoor ads) expenditures of more than $1.3 billion in 2000 (Impact Data Bank 2001), but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates the actual total, including unmeasured advertising, as triple that amount. 

NBC's decision to break its voluntary ban on liquor ads on television is a bad decision. It is not too late to voice your opinion. And it still is not too late for NBC to do the right thing.

For more information, please see Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America ( and The Center for Science in the Public Interest (