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Alcoholic beverage marketers are once again White House targets; this time its draft legislation that would force health warnings into TV, print, outdoor and Internet advertising. Industry resistance may sound predictable, but liquor, beer and wine marketers are correct to argue that ad warnings are not particularly effective communications tools. Lawmakers should keep that in mind if this is to get any serious attention, and should look for better alternatives.

This idea has circulated on Capitol Hill before, and it's not surprising to see it revived after a recent Treasury Department ruling that wine makers can allude to the health benefits of moderate drinking on wine labels. If marketers can suggest the benefits of moderate drinking, critics ask, why should the perils of heavy drinking not be mentioned in advertising?

This makes sense only if product advertising is the right stage for a debate over the pluses and minuses of alcohol. It is not. Other forms of communications such as paid or donated public service messages can discuss the health concerns of drinking more fully and effectively than is possible with any brief warning

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