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Coalition calls malt liquors 'harmful gateway' drugs.

Coalition calls malt liquors `harmful gateway' drugs

A coalition of 22 Black, Latino and health organizations recently charged that the beer industry pitches malt liquor primarily at Blacks and Latinos, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced.

The coalition has urged Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan and Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady to stop companies from targeting these groups as well as limit the alcohol content of malt liquor to five-percent.

"Not only are malt-liquor products harmful themselves, but they are `gateway' drugs that could pave the way to crack-cocaine and other illegal drugs," said Dr. Walter Faggett, representative, National Medical Association.

Peter Bell, executive director, Institute on Black Chemical Abuse, added that "beer marketers are aggressively marketing their most dangerous products to minorities; therefore, the government should restrict malt liquor to five-percent alcohol to reduce its harmfulness."

Disagreeing with these views, Jack Barthwell, vice president of corporate communications, The Stroh Brewery Co., believes "there are no problems with malt liquors per se."

"If the (coalition's) aim is to deal with alcohol abuse," Barthwell continued, "it is not the product that's the problem--it's the fact that people are not properly educated on these things."

Also on the other side of the coin, Jim Sanders, spokesman, the Beer Institute, argued that Faggett "is doing the public a disservice by confusing drinking problems with the sale of legal alcoholic beverages."

"Beer is no different than any other product," Sanders explained. "You always want to show attractive people enjoying the product--it's the way things are sold."

However, the coalition has linked malt liquor ads to sexual success. Sanders agrees that one Midnight Dragon malt liquor ad poster, featuring a suggestively dressed model and singled out by the coalition, went against the Institute's advertising ethics. He added that the spot has since been withdrawn.

The coaltition, organized by the CSPI, has also brought to light the fact that some malt liquor ads emphasizing strength and power appear to violate the federal law prohibiting such words as `full-strength.'

"One spot for St. Ides malt liquor, for instance, says in bold print, `number-one Strongest Malt,'" said Michael Jacobson, director, CSPI.

Sanders again commented that "the Beer Institute disapproves of anyone selling brew on the basis of strength, and (the Institute) is going to write them a letter, telling them that we are against what they're doing."
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Aug 28, 1989
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