Alcohol, tobacco makers accused of targeting youth on the Web
March 6, 1997
Web posted at: 11:52 p.m. EST (0452 GMT)
(CNN) -- The Internet site says, "Welcome to The Pad, the
official home of the Budweiser Frogs."
The cunning frogs -- like Budbrew J. (Bud) Budfrog -- are
sure to catch a youngster's eye. They have
personality and education -- and, Oh, yes -- they sell beer.
A coalition of media watchdog groups wants to ban
youth-oriented ads for alcoholic beverages and tobacco
products from the Internet.
In a report issued Thursday, the coalition says companies are
capitalizing on the Internet's popularity and flashy graphics
to promote products in cyberspace in ways that appeal to
The study says alcoholic beverage companies, in particular,
have moved to establish sites on the World Wide Web, the
multimedia portion of the Internet.
It says more than 35 major brands are represented, including
Moet & Chandon champagne, Smirnoff's vodka, Dewars scotch
whiskey, Samuel Adams beer and Captain Morgan rum.
The Center for Media Education, a children's advocacy group,
has called on Congress, federal regulators and health
officials to investigate the promotions, saying some may be
Industry denies any wrongdoing
"Alcohol marketers are stalking our children. They hunt and
ambush kids on TV, on radio, on the billboards they pass
walking to and from school. Now, they've begun snaring youths
on Web sites, too," complains George Hacker from the Center
for Science in the Public Interest.
Industry officials deny they are targeting youth.
"Just because a young person may get into a site, ignore the
fact it's for people 21 and older, and then go around in the
site, does not mean ... they are more likely to drink beer,"
contends Jeff Becker from the Beer Institute.
"There's nothing on the Budweiser Web site that a family
wouldn't see on an Anheuser-Busch brewery tour," adds Jack
Dougherty, spokesman for Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., which
produces Budweiser beer.
He said the company's Web site targets beer drinkers age 21
The nonprofit Center for Media Education estimates that
nearly 5 million people up to age 17 clicked on to the World
Wide Web last year.
There, they might be drawn to rock music selections, video
games like one featuring the Cuervo Gold Roadhog, cute jingles like the one from
Captain Morgan Rum and, possibly, the products themselves --
even though they legally are off-limits.
Tobacco companies sell online
Having been booted off television and radio by the Cigarette
Act, tobacco companies are tapping the potential of the
Internet through sites that promote smoking -- although shun
"If the tobacco industry moves on to the Internet to
advertise, then we will ask the Department of Justice to
investigate and enforce the Cigarette Act," says Jeff Chester
from the Center for Media Education.
The 1971 law bars cigarette ads on TV and radio and,
according to the Center for Media Education, is applicable to
That stance angers determined smokers.
"Until the prohibitionists succeed in gutting the First
Amendment, the National Smokers Alliance will continue to
communicate through the Internet," one group member said.
Correspondent Louise Schiavone and Reuters contributed to this report.
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