“Mom, Dad! Can I get the funny vodka?”This is a phrase no parent is ready to hear from their six-year-old. Yet Emodka seems made to elicit exactly that query. Emodka is an imported French vodka sold in rubber-ducky-colored bottles with the goofy text message icons printed on them. In light of this gross violation of ethical alcohol marketing, the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project (WAPP) mobilized the residents of the state to end importing of the product into Wisconsin. It was a heartening effort in the face of Big Alcohol’s persistent and dangerous lack of accountability for its advertising practices. Yet WAPP, like all public health and safety advocates, need to see real punitive action taken against those who profit from this reckless product, or else Emodka will simply be replaced with another in the endless line of youth-oriented booze bottles.
Researchers have definitively shown the link between youth exposure to alcohol marketing and harmful drinking. Connecting harmful products to cartoons has been a primary method of marketing to youth for almost a century—the tobacco industry was famously called to task for using Joe Camel to make cigarettes appeal to kids, and the sugar industry has long relied on mascots to push harmful breakfast foods on them. However, Emodka, following close on the heels of The Emoji Movie, is in a class of its own in terms of contempt for U.S. norms. So great is this level of contempt that, in the face of massive pressure from Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project and their allies, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the alcohol industry’s spirits association, took the rare step of eventually and belatedly censuring the distributor.
Yet even this action was too little and too late, as could be predicted from Big Alcohol’s insistence on self-regulation. There is no federal or state oversight of alcohol marketing practices. All enforcement comes from within the industry itself, and that is often ineffectual. In a report published under its previous name The Marin Institute, Alcohol Justice showed that DISCUS dismissed over half of all complaints over alcohol advertising practice. Frequently, the complaint was deemed addressed with a mere promise to comply in the future. That pattern repeated itself with Stoller and Emodka, where despite violations so blatant that the industry could not help but act, the only punishment was to tell Stoller not import more once the existing stocks had sold out.
“Without consequences from the distilled spirits industry or Federal Trade Commission, the manufacturer can profitably entice children with Emodka for years while watchdogs struggle to catch up,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice. “Self-regulation is a joke.”
As of this writing, brick-and-mortar retailers in over 16 states, as well as online retailers, still list Emodka for sale. It is time for public health and safety advocates to take up the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project’s banner, get this product off the shelves, and tell state and federal regulators that we need government oversight of the alcohol industry now.
TAKE ACTION to get Emodka off our shelves and end industry self-regulation once and for all.
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