The American ‘watchdog’ of the alcohol industry the Marin Institute has published a new report about the health claims of alcohol producers. The report concludes that despite all the well known negative consequences of drinking alcohol, both to society as well as individuals, marketing efforts are still being made to send the message that drinkers can actually gain nutritional benefits from consuming a potentially deadly product. The report calls this practice irresponsible corporate behavior that should be stopped and also draws attention to the failing systems of self-regulation and legal regulation that allows it.
Besides giving dazzling flagrant examples of alcohol advertisements that portray the products as healthy the report also discusses why the American government in this instance clearly fails to protect consumers. The Marin Institute recommends that the regulation of alcohol should no longer be the responsibility of the federal Department of the Treasury office, which is mainly concerned with collecting taxes. Instead alcohol regulation should be controlled by the Food and Drug Administration, which also handles jurisdiction over tobacco products.
Furthermore the institute calls for more resources for monitoring marketing practices by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which oversees all advertising practices. Currently the FTC is not equipped to comprehensively monitor ads and products. Additionally the report says that Congress needs to have more authority in the issue and ‘state alcohol beverage control agencies as well as state attorney general offices should be given more political backing and resources to go after scrupulous companies for deceptive practices’.
As the most detrimental factor in the failure to protect consumers the report points to the reliance on the system of voluntary self-regulation of alcohol producers. The argument of the industry that the First Amendment protects them from any government regulations because of the freedom of speech is also critiqued in the report: ‘The First Amendment does not protect deceptive advertising.’