Debate Over Alcohol Ads Reveals Hypocrisy Of War On Drugs

Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999
Subject: Debate Over Alcohol Ads Reveals Hypocrisy Of War On Drugs

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 110 June 11, 1999


In another recent scheme to rid the world of drugs, federal officials
announced they would spend $2 billion of taxpayer funds to place
anti-drug advertisements from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America
in various media outlets. These PDFA ads have never targeted alcohol
use, and now more people are asking why.

In one sense, it’s a good question, even if it has a simple answer. As
an op-ed piece from the San Francisco Chronicle notes (below), alcohol
is more widely used by young people (and adults) than illegal drugs.
Alcohol causes much more death and destruction than illegal drugs. So
wouldn’t it make sense to target alcohol too? Not if you are the
Partnership for a (Partially) Drug-Free America. The people who
volunteer their time to make the PDFA’s anti-drug ads made their real
living by creating advertisements for the alcohol industry. The fact
that many major alcohol manufacturers have contributed financially to
the PDFA in the past might have an impact as well.

While it’s important that the distinctions between good (legal) and
bad (illegal) drugs be exposed as arbitrary and irrational, the
question as to whether the PDFA should be used to fight teen alcohol
use presumes the PDFA advertisements are effective at stopping illegal
drug use. Many experts believe they are not, since they sell hysteria
and suspicion, not effective solutions. Please write a letter to the
San Francisco Chronicle or to your own newspaper showing how every
player in this drug war mini-drama is attempting only to protect their
own interests, even if those interests have nothing to do with making
America “drug-free.”

Thanks for your effort and support.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Just DO it


Phone, fax etc.)

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This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.


Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)



Write to your own local newspaper to say that the Partnership for a
Drug-Free America is a farce, since it doesn’t consider alcohol a drug
from which America needs to be freed, and because its scare tactics
are unproven and counterproductive. If your newspaper runs PDFA ads,
this action is especially encouraged.

Need an Email address for your local paper? Email addresses for nearly
every paper of any size can be found at:


US CA: OPED: Drug War Isn’t On Target URL:

Newshawk: Frank S. World
Pubdate: Tue, 08 Jun 1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Diana Conti


Alcohol Lobby Derails Any Efforts To Dissuade Teens

In His War Against Drugs, General Barry McCaffrey is outgunned by the
political influence of special interest money that diverts attention
from the gateway to teen drug problems, the drug most used and abused
by adolescents — alcohol. McCaffrey has repeatedly gone on record
saying that alcohol is the primary drug abused in this country and he
has lamented his inability to make alcohol the centerpiece of his
current $195 million anti-drug media campaign.

Coming to his rescue, U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard, D–
Calif., Frank Wolf, R-Va., have authored an amendment to the Treasury,
Postal Service and Government Appropriations bill that would add
alcohol to the media campaign. McCaffrey’s lament apparently wasn’t
sincere. When the Roybal-Allard Wolf amendment was announced, the
drug czar and the White House came out in opposition to alcohol being
included in the campaign to unsell drugs to America’s youth. The
reason: the powerful alcohol and advertising lobbies.

The two major opponents of the Roybal- Allard/Wolf amendment are the
politically influential and well-connected National Beer Wholesalers
Association and the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.

Another opponent is the Partnership for a Drug Free America, a
nonprofit organization comprised primarily of advertising
professionals. Many of them work for the very ad firms that produce
the alcohol advertising that the drug czar’s media campaign would
counterbalance, if it included alcohol counter-ads.

The partnership, which was founded on alcohol, tobacco and
pharmaceutical money, provides volunteers to produce the current ads
on illegal drug use by teens. It claims that it would not be
productive to produce a campaign that includes alcohol because alcohol
is “deeply ingrained in our culture” and “alcohol use is widely
glamorized in movies, television and music.” And, the alcohol
industry spends as much as $3 billion a year putting positive alcohol
messages in front of kids’ faces. The partnership’s position mirrors
that of beer companies who hypocritically claim their ads have no
effect on underage drinking. Its position conveniently ignores how
effectively tobacco counter-ads have worked using hard-hitting
messages that expose the tobacco industry and debunk its advertising

It’s predictable that the National Beer Wholesalers Association would
oppose public health efforts to counteract youth-oriented beer ads
that glorify alcohol. Wine ads on the other hand are, for the most
part, responsible and not inviting to children. The Wine Institute’s
opposition is strange and unnecessary.

Alcohol is a leading cause of death among young people. Thirty
percent of twelfth graders report hazardous drinking, and youth who
start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become
addicted than those who begin at 21. Every day on average, 11,318
kids try alcohol for the first time, compared with 6,488 for
marijuana; 2,786 for cocaine; and 386 for heroin.

Our children will be the losers if corporate lobbies continue to
undermine efforts to protect their health and safety. Lawmakers
should just say no to special interests and make the well-being of the
next generation their top priority.

The first step should be to pass legislation that allows the war on
teen drug use to combat its biggest enemy — alcohol.

Diana Conti is executive director of The Marin Institute for the
Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems in San Rafael.


I applaud Diana Conti’s expose of the hypocrisy of the war on drugs
(“Drug War Isn’t On Target,” June 8). The leaders of the drug war
rarely focus on alcohol even though it is used and abused more widely
than all illegal drugs put together.

Since Conti displays the insight to see why this is happening, I’m
surprised that she still seems to believe that ads from the
Partnership For a Drug-Free America are the answer to any drug
problems, especially alcohol problems. Far from being an answer, the
PDFA’s scare strategies are counterproductive. The PDFA ads repeatedly
suggest that drugs are everywhere, and if you’re on drugs, you’re lost
and hopeless. The PDFA attempts to further marginalize people who are
already marginalized. Creating ads like that for alcohol will look
particularly absurd to kids who have seen thousands of typical beer
ads: fun-loving, good-looking, sport-playing hipsters living life to
the fullest.

It’s time we take a new approach to drug policy in general. It should
start, as Conti suggests, with a focus on the drugs that do the most
damage, not the ones that do the least damage. After that, maybe we
can try to reduce the hype (both negative and positive) that surrounds
every drug. Anyone who wants a free and truthful America needs to
recognize “drug-free America” as a dangerous illusion.

Stephen Young

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