New York Assembly Takes Aim at ‘Alcopops’ Ads

WASHINGTON — New York is stepping up its efforts to restrict alcohol advertising, despite a Supreme Court decision last year that says states cannot ban speech intended for adults in the interest of protecting children.

The Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse held a hearing last week to determine if ads for “alcopops” such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice target underage drinkers. “Such advertising is believed to target young people by promoting alcoholic beverages that look and taste like soft drinks, and uses imagery that appeals particularly to youth,” the committee said in its notice of the hearing.

The New York legislature is also considering a bill that would ban alcohol and tobacco ads within a mile of schools, churches, playgrounds and daycare centers. “The bombardment of these ads has to stop,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Kings County, who introduced the bill.

Last year’s high court decision was in a free-speech case that involved tobacco but has also been applied to alcohol. The city of Los Angeles subsequently repealed a ban on alcohol advertising near schools, playgrounds and churches.

The Association of National Advertisers, the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) testified against any ban on alcopops advertising. “If there is a problem with kids and alcohol, you must deal with it by enforcing the laws that bar stores from selling alcohol to them,” said First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, arguing on behalf of the ANA.

Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, said the Federal Trade Commission ruled that “alcopops” are appropriately marketed after examining company documents.

DISCUS president Peter Cressy said, “The problem will not be solved by glib testimony or sensational headlines that go after advertising.”

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