Vice Squad
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Self-Regulating Alcohol Ads

Industry self-regulation can be a powerful force in vice control, even if it is reluctantly embraced by an industry hoping to stem legal controls or private boycotts. Liquor manufacturers and marketers in the US have adopted a voluntary "Code of Responsible Practices." Among other things, they do not allow ad placement in venues where less than 70 percent of the audience is likely to meet the minimum drinking age, and, surprising to me, they do not allow advertising in college newspapers or on college campuses, except in campus establishments that sell alcohol.

But who actually holds the alcohol makers to their code? Other alcohol sellers: if you see that your competitor is cheating, you have a profit motive to report the violation. And if the complainant is right, it looks as if the violation often is rectified. We now know this, because as the linked article reports, the Distilled Spirits Council (the self-regulating industry trade group) is now making complaints publicly available. Sounds like a good development to me. Helping to hold the industry to its commitment is the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY); their report on kids and television ads for alcohol indicates that "In 2001, 2002, and 2003, almost a quarter of alcohol ads that aired on television were more likely to be seen by underage youth per capita than by legal-age adults [footnote omitted]."

Vice Squad has previously noted self-regulation in the pornography industry, both in theory and practice. CAMY has appeared in Vice Squad in the past, too.

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