Sunday, August 15, 2004

Alcohol Industry Under Attack!!! (Stock up while you can!)

A CNN article about lawsuits against the alcohol industry. The article specifically compares these class-action suits to the ones brought against the tobacco industry, questioning whether the alcohol companies will fare as poorly as big tobacco.

The article explains that the class-action suits against the tobacco industry met with such success (or at least results) due to the arguments put forth by the plaintiffs, that the tobaccoists were targeting America's youth. The CNN article suggests that the alcohol plaintiffs will use that same tactic:
This pinstripe army is being assembled by the trial lawyers in an attempt to convince the American public that alcoholic beverage manufacturers are engaged in an evil mission to turn the country's teens into alcohol-dependent adults.


These warriors against all things evil, including alcohol, are now engaged in a massive effort to regulate and limit alcohol advertising. One target of the lawsuits they have started is magazines containing alcohol advertising that they say appeal to young males (specifically, those under 21 years of age).

In fact, it's plain that the same advertising which appeals to young males -- beautiful young women dressed in alluring outfits -- necessarily appeals to older men as well. (Indeed, because sex sells, and beauty sells, it's hard to think of a field of advertising that does not employ beautiful young women -- including cosmetic companies that themselves market to young women.) But that fact either doesn't occur to these crusaders, or is simply ignored by them.

Laudably, the alcohol companies, clearly mindful of the fate of their tobacco brethren, are not caving in; the economic stakes are too high. They have raised strong and appealing First Amendment defenses. They are also seeking to have the cases removed from state to federal courts -- where the rules are somewhat less favorable to class-action plaintiffs.
I gotta tell you, I'm pulling for the alcohol companies, myself. Despite my inclinations, however, I doubt this industry will fare much better than tobacco. Frankly I can't see how if a court (or courts) found tobacco ads to be targeting youth, like-minded courts would not find alcohol adverts to be tergeting youth. In my mind, they're very similar. I can think of at least 5 different advertisements by various beer and liquor companies that could easily be misconstrued as targeting young adults.

One of the questions is what differentiates an advertisement that targets the appropriate audience from an advert that targets underage individuals. And I don't know what the answer might be since the line between those two categories, while black & white in the law, is very gray in the real world. I defy you to produce an advertisement for beer that targets young persons of ages from 21 to 25 while avoiding those youth ages 18 to 20.

I'm also unsure that these advertisements or the industry itself is to blame for underage drinking. "There's a time and a place for everything. And it's called college." The collegiate atmosphere, and greek life in particular, often promote and encourage underage drinking. Until that is addressed, changing the advertisements in magazines and on television will have little, if any, effect.

Plus this litigation may drive up the price of beer. You'd think these lawyers would know better!!! After all, our profession has an abnormally high rate of alcholoism. Surely this will drive up their (non-professional) expenses as well! Geez, what are these guys thinking?????