Group Fights Sale of Alcopops, Fast Food Beer

In an effort to protect young people from increasingly aggressive alcohol marketing, which is permeating not only convenience stores but also fast food restaurants, one group is calling for change through appeals and resolutions.

The American Council on Alcohol Problems, which meets annually to discuss ways to curb alcohol and drug consumption throughout the nation, issued several resolutions on the matter of underage drinking, fast food alcohol and privatized liquor sales during their 2011 conference in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 19-21.

Their first matter of business dealt with “alcopops,” or brightly-packaged, sweet and fruity drinks that were classified in most states as malt beverages, but actually had alcoholic content.

“Classifying the drinks as a malt beverage allows the alcohol industry to reach more young people through advertising practices and also offers preferential regulatory treatment, including an enormous tax benefit,” ACAP penned.

Studies show that when a person consumes just one of these so-called malt beverages, they can potentially meet the criteria for binge drinking, Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, shared in a statement.

“Research shows that these alcopops ... may not be showing up on parents’ radar, but are certainly popular with teenagers,” he added, concerned about the deceptive marketing strategy used by the alcohol industry.

In a poll conducted for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, results revealed that teens were three times more likely than adults to have seen, heard or read about alcopops. The American Medical Association also reported that a third of teen girls had already tried the fruit or soda pop-flavored drinks.

The “tooty-fruity, high-octane alcohol drinks,” which are becoming increasingly popular with youth and college students, are considered “starters” or “bridgers” by the alcohol industry.

They take young drinkers from carbonated fruit juices to alcohol and attract more underage girls than boys, reported the organization.

Although the FDA banned the alcoholic beverages that were pre-mixed with high levels of caffeine, many young people are still overindulging in alcopops, especially in states like North Carolina, which passed the Pop the Cap legislation in 2005, increasing alcohol content limits for malt beverages.

Now, as alcopops are being legally sold in many convenience and grocery stores within the state, ACAP felt that young consumers were being put in danger.

“Everything more we learn about these beverages is distressing and proves that North Carolina made a huge mistake when it ‘popped the cap’ on malt beverage alcohol content in 2005, now allowing these high-test alcoholic drinks to be sold and taxed like beer, rather than spirits,” noted Creech.

Hoping to reverse the improper tax classifications and sale practices of alcopops, ACAP created the Resolution on Underage Alcohol Use and the Products Known as Alcopops.

Additionally, the organization also discussed the disturbing sales of alcohol in fast food chains and called on the restaurants to reject the idea of adding alcohol to their menus.

Chains like Burger King, however, have already opened “Whopper Bars” in some locations, while Sonic restaurants in Florida are also experimenting in beer and wine sales to increase their nightly business.

“Fast food restaurants market directly to children, and their exposure to fast food TV ads has risen by as much as 34 percent since 2003, according to Fast Food FACTS: Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score,” ACAP wrote in their Resolution in Opposition to Beer Sales at Fast Food Restaurants.

“Kids are pretty frequent customers of fast food places like Burger King,” Michele Simon, the research and policy director at the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group, told The Christian Post previously.

“Obviously fast food chains are places that we normally associate kids being in. There’s been this somewhat of an ... eroded division between adult-oriented places – restaurants, bars – and more family-friendly, kid-oriented places.”

Not only was the concern focused on children’s presence in the chains, but employees as well.

ACAP worried that underage workers would be overexposed to alcohol or be forced to quit their jobs if alcohol was introduced.

“We are sending written appeals to every national fast food chain urging them not to consider alcohol sales as an option – not now, not ever,” Creech explained.

“Fast food is designated because diners are in, out and back on the road in a short period of time. The last thing we need is to add alcohol to the mix to put less than sober drivers on the highway.”

At the meeting, ACAP also addressed the issue of privatizing alcohol sales, which the organization has long been opposed to.

Their Resolution in Opposition of Privatized Liquor Sales in North Carolina addressed the need to keep the state’s current position of liquor sales and remain a control state.

“It is imperative that we keep up that fight,” Dylan Mulrooney-Jones, policy committee chair of the N.C. Substance Abuse Prevention Providers Association, shared at the event.

Faith groups also supported ACAP’s cause, attending the meeting and encouraging abstinence from alcohol. Members of a religious panel representing six different faiths all shared at the event why their religion taught them to abstain from alcohol, ACAP explained.

“Although the reasons they gave [were] varied, there was one common theme: keeping the mind clear so that one could properly discern the voice of God and obey Him,” Creech said.

ACAP is a federation of 37 state affiliates promoting the reduction of alcohol advertising, availability and consumption throughout the nation. The council was originally dubbed the Anti-Saloon League from 1893 until 1948.

It partners with George Hacker’s Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other temperance-oriented groups, as stated on their website.