Concern over alcohol advertisements once again reached the floor of Congress with the release of two reports on Sept. 9. Although differing in opinion, both reports confirmed a central issue – the alcohol industry is beginning to reform youth exposure to its advertising.

Of the two reports, the Federal Trade Commission’s was most in favor of the alcohol industry’s changing practices. Jim O’Hara, executive director at the Center on Alcohol arketing and Youth at Georgetown University, said that the report was a “review of what the industry had done since 1999,” and that “the industry has made several improvements.”

In order to limit youth exposure, the alcohol industry has agreed on a 70 percent threshold of adult access in order to run such an advertisement, meaning that they will only choose to run such ads in periodicals or during air time in which less than 30 percent of its readers, viewers or listeners are under 21. Prior to the change, the threshold was set at 50 percent, statistically leaving one in two viewers of the ad underage.

While saying he is glad about the changes, O’Hara also added that he wished it had come sooner. “It’s welcome news but that’s just now taken place … for the last four years, underage youth has been exposed to these ads.”

The other report presented to Congress comes from the National Academy of Sciences. According to its findings, the 70 percent threshold is too low; it calls for 85 percent of the audience to be adults.

Further, they claim that the percentage does not account for the size of the audience in general. George A Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said, in reference to the Super Bowl, that “even though the underage audience is a small proportion, it’s still the largest audience of kids for any show ever,” in a Sept. 15 New York Times article.

According to O’Hara, 15 percent of the U.S. population is age 12-20, and so the Academy concluded that 85 percent access was a better proportion than 70.

The National Academy of Sciences calls for other regulations beyond an 85 percent rule. According to O’Hara, it has “a very comprehensive strategy that addresses the issue from all angles.” One such proposal includes increased taxes on alcohol or cigarettes.

O’Hara said that he found statistics from 2001 showing alcohol ads to be “pervasive.” The Center on Alcohol arketing and Youth will soon release the 2002 findings in order to assess if industry changes have started to have any impact yet, he said.

At this point, O’Hara said he finds the good news to be that “everyone recognizes the need for change, and the industry is taking steps.”

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