The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), representing distillers of all sizes, called on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to lift the ban on alcohol advertisements.

“The research is clear – parents and other adults are the most influential factors in a youth’s decision whether or not to drink alcohol, not advertising,” said DISCUS Vice president Jay Hibbard. “Decades of scientific research show that alcohol advertising does not cause someone to begin drinking, let alone abuse alcohol. The assertion that alcohol advertising causes underage drinking is based on highly-flawed advocacy-driven “research” that has been refuted by advertising experts in the scientific community.”

Hibbard cited, for example, a new study from the University of Texas that analyzed the relationship between annual alcohol advertising expenditures and per capita sales of beer, wine and spirits in the U.S. from 1971-2012.  Over a 40-year span, the researchers found that per-capita alcohol consumption remained essentially constant, with changes occurring only between the three beverage alcohol categories – beer, wine and distilled spirits.  Conversely, during the same timeframe, alcohol advertising media expenditures increased almost 400%.

The University of Texas researchers concluded that advertising is a means to gain market share and “proposals to restrict or curtail truthful, commercial messages about a legal product work against rational public policy.”  The researchers also underscored, “the outcomes of this study can be used to inform relevant public policy discussions regarding alcohol beverage advertising.”

Hibbard stated, “To be effective, public policy prescriptions must be evidence-based.  Proposals to restrict or ban alcohol advertising are ineffective, misguided and unsupported by the scientific research.

“The nation’s distillers are committed to responsible advertising and have a proud and proven history of successful self-regulation through our industry’s Code of Responsible Practices. The FTC, the lead federal agency charged with consumer protection, has repeatedly reaffirmed the spirits industry’s responsible advertising practices.

“Both Chicago and Charlotte recently overturned bans on alcohol advertising on public transit with each city experiencing absolutely no negative effects. We urge MBTA to base its decision on scientific evidence, not scaremongering.  Advertising restrictions simply divert attention from solutions that work to combat alcohol abuse,” Hibbard concluded.

Additional information on the Distilled Spirits Council’s Code of Responsible Practices is available here.