Alcohol Advertising

Critics often cite advertising for alcoholic beverage products on television and radio and in print as a leading cause of underage drinking and demand that such advertisements be further regulated by Congress or banned outright.

AAF Position
The AAF maintains a proactive approach to combating underage drinking while working to protect the rights of advertisers. Companies have a constitutional right to free speech, including truthful advertising of legal products to appropriate audiences. We support self-regulatory codes and programs developed by the industries, including restricting ads only to those shows where a minimum of 70 percent of the audience is expected to be of legal drinking age. Additionally, we applaud responsible consumption programs sponsored by the Beer Institute and Century Council, as well as many public service ads and other programs sponsored by individual companies over many decades. The alcohol industry has likely spent more time, effort and advertising dollars on public service campaigns than any other industry. We believe this work demonstrates the serious intent of the industries to discourage underage drinking.

Some interest groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), have produced studies that purport to show a relationship between alcohol advertisements and underage drinking. They contend that if advertising for a product is reduced, so too will the demand for the product. We believe the studies are flawed. Experience in other countries shows that reducing or banning advertising will not reduce rates of consumption. Others, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), seek federal support to find alcohol counter-advertising.

In the last Congress, H.R. 864, the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Underage Drinking Act), was enacted into law. Introduced by Rep. Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., the bill will fund research on "the type and quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed by underage drinkers, as well as gather information on brand preferences of these drinkers and exposure to alcohol advertising."

In California, a 2006 proposal would have prohibited advertising of alcoholic beverages on media if 15 percent or more of the audience is underage. This limit exceeds industry self-regulation guidelines. The bill never received a vote.


June 28, 2008: The Federal Trade Commission released a report finding "high levels of compliance" with the alcohol industry's voluntary standards of directing advertising only to adult audiences. Over 92 percent of all television, radio and print advertising disseminated by 12 suppliers met the audience standard of at least 70 percent of adults aged 21 or over.

Last updated: September 2008

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