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Surgeon General asks industry to pull ads appealing to youngsters.

In a continued fight against alcohol industry advertising, Surgeon General Antonia Novella held a news conference in Washington to ask the industry to halt all advertising that may appeal to people below the legal drinking age.

The press conference prefaced a December 11 meeting with 14 executives from the country's top beer and other alcohol producers, when Novello will press the issue.

"I must call for the industry's voluntary elimination of the types of alcohol advertising that appeal to youth on the basis of certain lifestyle appeals, sexual appeal, sports appeal or risky activities, as well as advertising with the more blatant appeals of cartoon characters and youth slang," Novello told those attending the conference.

However, beer makers may be a tough lot to convince, citing a list of 20 industry guidelines for advertising their products, including the fact that "beer advertising should not portray sexual passion, promiscuity, or any other amorous activity as a consequence of drinking beer."

Beer Institute President James Sanders echoed those sentiments. "I just don't think anyone is going to jump forth and concede that the surgeon general has the right or power to decide what is acceptable or unacceptable for the American public to watch," Sanders told the Wall Street Journal.

Also siding with Sanders was Todd Appleman, spokesperson for Coors Brewing Co., which was among those brewers singled out for "tantalizing" youths with its ads.

"We take strong exception to [Novello's] claim that we target underage consumers or mislead the public in any way," Appleman said.

Indeed, nearly all industry spokespeople quoted a recent report to Congress from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, that noted, "Research has yet to document a strong relationship between alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption."

Anheuser-Busch, Inc.'s Joseph Castellano, vice president of consumer awareness and education, pointed out that brewers' "advertising is just not a significant factor in really making anybody drink. What it is successful in doing is getting drinkers to drink our products."

"This is selling the sizzle, not the steak," Sanders concluded. "If we have a very dull ad showing a lot of very uninteresting people doing uninteresting things, no one's going to watch our ads."
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Title Annotation:Antonia Novella; alcohol beverage industry
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Nov 11, 1991
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