Press Release

For Immediate Release
Contact: Melissa Merz
877-844-5461 (TTY)
May 16, 2006


Chicago – With teenage drinking a top concern as prom season continues and schools begin summer break, Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined 19 other 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 of the Attorneys General were sent last week 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.

“Our teens have to make tough decisions about drinking every day, especially during prom season and the summer break from school,” Madigan said. “We don’t need aggressive advertising encouraging them to risk their health by drinking at an early age. The alcohol advertisers must be conscious of who their advertisements reach and what affect this can have on a teen’s decision making process.”

According to statistics quoted by the Attorneys General, 87 percent of the 4.4 million first-time drinkers in this country in 2004 were under the legal drinking age of 21. In addition, almost 30 percent of 12 to 20-year-olds reported drinking alcohol within the previous 30 days.

Madigan and the other Attorneys General who joined in sending the letter are all members of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee. This bipartisan Committee was formed in July 2004 and has 26 members. 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.

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 also encouraged 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 Attorneys General called on the FTC not only to 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.

The Attorneys General asked the FTC to explore whether it is appropriate to change the current standard to limit advertising to media where no more than 15 percent of the audience is age 12 to 20. These comments highlight recent research that demonstrates a link between exposure to alcohol advertising and increased drinking behavior by underage drinkers.

Finally, the Attorneys General called on the FTC to further review the sufficiency and efficacy of alcohol advertisers’ pre-placement review and third party complaint review procedures.

Madigan was joined in sending the letter by the Attorneys General from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah.


Return to May 2006 Press Releases