Parents to sue Alcohol Company

Five class-action lawsuits have been filed nationally that accuse the alcohol industry of marketing to underage drinkers.

Lynne and Reed Goodwin are the lead plaintiffs in a case filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Miller and Anheuser-Busch; their daughter, Casey, 20, was killed by an 18-year-old drunk driver, and the couple believes that the beer industry encourages kids to drink.

Similar class-action cases have been filed during the past 14 months in Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington. The lawsuits accuse the industry of using raunchy and provocative ads to target adolescents in youth-oriented magazines and on TV shows with large youth audiences. Also targeted is marketing of flavored malt beverages (a.k.a. “malternatives” or “alcopops”) like Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which critics see as appealing to teens who dislike the taste of beer or alcohol.

The lawsuits seek damage awards and restrictions on advertising. Most of the nation’s biggest brewers and distillers are named in one suit or another. The industry says it does not advertise to anyone under age 21 or encourage underage drinking. Companies point to the fact that they have funded “responsible drinking” messages, training for clerks to spot fake IDs, and education for parents about preventing youth drinking.

The companies also challenge the lawsuits for seeking damages for kids or parents who illegally purchased or consumed alcohol. “These cases seek to reward underage drinkers, or their parents, for breaking the law,” said Edward M. Crane, a lawyer for Anheuser-Busch. “That would send an undesirable message to teens — namely that underage drinking is OK and might even be profitable.”

A 2002 federal report estimated that 12-to-20-year-olds consume 11.4 % of all alcohol sold; other studies put the figure closer to 20 % — a $22.5 billion market.

The industry, aware of the impact of the 1998 nationwide tobacco settlement, also has moved to prevent similar lawsuits from being filed by states. Former Mississippi Atty. Gen. Mike Moore, who spearheaded the tobacco settlement, has been hired by Anheuser-Busch, and other former state attorneys general have been retained as lobbyists by other alcohol companies.

Source: Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 27. 2005
Filed under: Alcohol,Parents :

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