March 24, 2006

State Senate hearing targets “alcopops”

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

“Alcopops” are sweet, soda-like liquor drinks. Girls as young as 13 years old take their first drink by trying alcopops.

A public hearing where the California Senate Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families examined the effects of alcohol marketing aimed at youth took place on Friday, March 10, at the County Administration Center.

There, Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña condemned alcopops and the tactics the alcohol beverage industry uses to reach to young people, especially teenage women.

Saldaña has introduced AB 2013, a bill that aggressively curtails the targeting of youth by the alcohol industry.

Currently, alcopops are taxed as beer at 20 cents a gallon in California; distilled spirits are taxed at $3.30 per gallon. AB 2013 would change alcopops classification from beer to distilled spirit, Saldaña said.

Alcopops and teen alcohol drinking is a growing problem in America, said Dr. David Jernigan, from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

Jernigan said that alcohol is the number one drug problem among youth.

He said that this is due in part to the alcohol companies ads in youth media and shows.

“There’s a simple solution: move advertising to places where kids are not overrepresented,” he said.

Jernigan said the Center did a general study that found several points that prove that alcohol affects all youth, including Hispanics.

Some of the findings from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth:

• Alcohol advertisers spent $18.3 million to place ads on 12 of the 15 programs in English and Spanish that were most popular with Hispanic youth in 2002.

• Hispanic youth saw 24% more beer and ale and 24% more distilled spirits advertising than non-Hispanic youth in English-language magazines in 2002.

• Hispanic youth heard 11% more distilled spirits advertising and 14% more advertising for alcopops on English-language radio than non-Hispanic youth on a per capita basis.

Other findings include:

• Each day, three teens in the United States die from drinking and driving, and at least six more die from other alcohol-related causes.

• Teenage girls who binge drink are up to 63% more likely to become teen mothers.

• Underage drinking costs the U.S. $53 billion a year in medical care, lost productivity, and the pain and the suffering of young drinkers.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said that alcohol use among teens in San Diego are highly related to gangs, violence, and accidents.

“Where alcohol ads exists, there’s more underage drinking,” he said.

San Diego police chief Bill Landsdowne said that “alcohol is more of a problem than all the other drugs combined.”

He called AB2013 and SB1180, a bill introduced in the State Senate by Senator Carole Migden, “great steps to protect our greatest assets: Our kids.”

Sierra Papp, co-chair of the San Diego County Youth Council, said that advertisers don’t care about youth.

“It’s really unfortunate that the alcohol companies feel the need to target youth just to gain profit,” she said.

Some of the alcopops brands are Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Bacardi Silver, Seagram’s Coolers, Jack Daniel’s County Coolers, Zima, Sky Blue and Lynchburg Lemonade.

“For the sake of our youth, we need to do as much as we can to take Alcopops out of the easy reach of kids,” State Senator Liz Figueroa said in a recent La Prensa San Diego commentary. “Protecting our youth, not the narrow economic interest of Alcopop makers, should be the state’s top priority in determining how best to regulate and tax these products.”

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