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LIFTING BAN ON LIQUOR ADS PLACES MONEY OVER ETHICS

SHARE LIFTING BAN ON LIQUOR ADS PLACES MONEY OVER ETHICS

Change is pandemic to much of modern life. But not when the subject is the difference between right and wrong.

If the distributors of hard liquor were concerned about right and wrong, as they appear to have been in the 1930s, they would reverse their recent decision to end their voluntary advertising ban. After all, what has changed since the 1930s? Is hard liquor any less dangerous for children (or, for that matter, for adults)? Does alcohol cause any fewer problems in the nation's homes and highways?If anything, problems related to alcohol are more acute today.

A recently completed study by the Utah Alcohol Policy Commission found that advertisements influence 50 percent of teens to drink. Also, 15 percent of teen drinkers said they started drinking at age 12 or younger. And teenagers watch television. By some estimates, more than 18 million of them are tuned in during prime time.

The industry's argument that it isn't targeting young people is silly. Advertisements, by their nature, are designed to sell a product and change behavior. Making commercials that appeal exclusively to adults is virtually impossible. Children imitate adult behavior. If beer commercials, with their fun-loving, swimsuit clad models, are any indication, the liquor industry is likely to send a message that is false and destructive.

Also spurious is the claim that such ads will be done responsibly, as one industry spokesman said. One cannot responsibly market a product that is destructive.

Only one incentive exists for lifting the ban -- increased profits. And when lives are at stake, that is a reprehensible priority.

Fortunately, the four major television networks have agreed to continue a self-imposed ban on accepting liquor ads. The Utah Alcohol Beverage Control Commission also will continue its comprehensive ban. Still, 1,200 independently owned television and radio stations have yet to decide. Some already are running hard-liquor commercials.

Don't look for the liquor industry to explain why it suddenly abandoned the ethical stand it has taken all these years, or why free speech rights suddenly outweigh moral and civic responsibility.

Media owners and their audiences, however, don't need to blithely follow along. They must impose their own ethical standards and block this destructive profiteering.