Consumer Group: Sweet Booze Attracts Teens

ByABC News
May 9, 2001, 8:36 AM

May 9 -- Alcopop has got to stop. So warns a consumer group that today unveiled new poll data suggesting teens are more likely than adults to drink sweet, fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages.

The group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, labelled the beverages "starter suds" and says their bright, hip packaging intentionally resembles that of nonalcoholic lemonades, fruit punches and soft drinks popular with teens.

A poll commissioned by CPSI found 64 percent of teens had heard or read about the drinks compared to just 21 percent of adults. And nearly twice as many teens as adults had tried them.

Products like Mike's Hard Lemonade, Doc Otis' Hard Lemonade, Sublime, Tequiza and Hooper's Hooch may disclose alcoholic content on their labels. But the beverages disguise the taste of alcohol to make them easier to drink, argued George Hacker, the CSPI's director for alcohol policies.

Hacker asserted they are intended as bridges to other forms of alcohol. "Companies that market 'starter brews' and 'alcopops' aren't peddling adult drinks."

Added the activist: "There's a strong motive among producers to get kids when they're young so they'll become steady customers.Even if the industry believes they're targeting entry level drinkers who are 21 years old, the real entry level these days is 13."

The center urged the government to investigate the marketing of the popular products.

Anti-Alcohol Agenda?

A spokeswoman for Anheuser-Busch, which makes Doc Otis' Hard Lemonade and Tequiza, said the company agrees with the group's goal of combating underage drinking but disagrees with its tactics.

The spokeswoman, Francine Katz, also characterized the center as an "activist group with an anti-alcohol agenda. They didn't like the ads and products we had 10 years ago, they don't like the ads and products we have today; and I venture to guess they won't like our ads or products 10 years from now."

Katz suggested it was more effective to ensure the company's products were consumed responsibly and by adults, as the St. Louis-based brewer has with education programs that it offers to parents, retailers and law enforcers to help them undermine underage drinking.