September 25, 2008
Alcopops ‘Freebie’ Legislation Needs Governor’s Veto
To: STATE EDITORS
Contact: Fred Jones, Esq., of California Coalition on Alcopops and Youth, +1-530-887-9944 (office), +1-916-768-6060 (cell)Bill Increases Marketing 1200% to Youth, Girls
SACRAMENTO,Calif.,Sept. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The California Coalition on Alcopops and Youthappealed to Governor Schwarzenegger today to veto AB 1245, which would increase the industry's marketing and promotional item limits for "freebies" by 1200 percent. This diverse, broad-based coalition of individuals and community-based organizations have joined togetherto contain the growing problem of underage drinking and the use of sweet-tasting flavored malt beverages, which are increasingly popular among youth, particularly girls.
"The Governor should not even consider passing such an ill- conceived, self-serving and irresponsible bill that does nothing but promote alcoholic products without any regulations on when or where these 'freebies' are distributed,"said Judy Walsh-Jackson, Executive Director of the Coalition. "Study after study reminds us that underage drinking constitutes a critical public health and safety problem for the state and nation and that binge drinking is rising particularly among girls, who are often the primary targets of multi- billion dollar advertising campaigns. To allow an alcohol manufacturer to bolster its marketing power 1200% is a hazard toCalifornias youth."
AB 1245, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Bacardi and Tilt brand alcopops, would allow for the largest increase in 50 years that alcohol manufacturers could spend on give-away items to promote their products and attract new, younger drinkers. Through AB 1245, "freebie" items that target youth like t-shirts, ball caps, and coolers could be handed out in any location and as frequently as desired by alcohol manufacturers.
Alcopops (called Flavored Malt Beverages by the alcohol industry) are soda pop with a kick that contain distilled spirits. The Attorney General's office issued a letter in 2005 stating that they should be classified as distilled spirits, not beer. The Board of Equalization has heeded the Attorney General's advice and recognized the heightened risks that alcopops pose for youth by reclassifying them as distilled spirits effective October 1, 2008. But the Schwarzenegger administration continues to treat them as beer for purposes of promotions and availability, which means AB 1245 would greatly expand alcopops marketing giveaways.
"AB 1245 is a sham,"said Michael Scippa, Advocacy Director for Marin Institute. "Anheuser-Busch simply wants to increase their marketing share at the expense of our youth by giving away more expensive trinkets to attract new and younger drinkers. This is another irresponsible ploy by the largest beer producer in the world to open a Pandora's Box of gimmicks aimed at kids."
The Coalition is spearheading an ongoing advocacy campaign to raise the awareness of underage drinking with a focus on the role that alcohol advertising and marketing of youth-alluring alcopops play in contributing to the problem.
Since 2005, when AB 417 (Aghazarian) was introduced by alcopops manufacturers, the Coalition has worked with legislators and regulators to address the growing crisis of underage drinking as well as proper labeling and taxation of flavored malt beverages in California.
"Without a doubt, youth are persuaded by advertising icons and free goods and you can't tell me that Bud's animated Super Bowl half- time show, Bud Bowl, or their cute little frogs and lizards aren't going to attract the attention of a kid,"said Reverend James Butler, Executive Director of the California Council on Alcohol Problems. "The Governor should veto AB 1245 and instruct the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to reclassify alcopops as distilled spirits as required underCalifornialaw. He should make the issue of alcopops and our children's health and safety a priority."
With support from the Coalition, the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs funded a research project involving over 300 California students in 27 youth-led focus groups across the state to determine youth attitudes and beliefs about and use of alcopops. The study documents the alcohol industry's marketing practices that target young people and is available at www.alcopopscoalition.org.
SOURCE California Coalition on Alcopops and Youth
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