It's Those Greedy Corporations That Make Us Drink

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Few drugs are as socially accepted yet privately scrutinized as alcohol. Many appreciate the status quo; others favor the renewal of prohibition while some just want a Sunday-morning six-pack. Regardless if we perceive this substance as a harmful drug, inspirational elixir, or life support, forecasts show that we're imbibing at record pace.
   Data from the World Health Organization shows that between 1961 and 1980 Americans increased their alcohol consumption by approximately 60%. Subsequently, perhaps due to an oversaturation of sobering pop bands, consumption levels began to decrease, bottoming out in 1994.
   This trend was especially disheartening to hard liquor companies. In addition to a decade of decreasing alcohol consumption, hard liquor's marketshare had been shrinking for decades. By the mid-Nineties it seemed America had chosen beer and wine as their booze of choice. Liquor companies needed to respond to survive.
   In October of 1996, Seagram broke with a 48-year-old voluntary ban by the Distilled Spirits Council and advertised Crown Royal on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Texas. The outcry from D.C. was immediate, and by 1998 24 bipartisan congressmen had the FCC investigating the legality of these ads.
   To dodge this regulatory cannonball, liquor companies made a turnabout to safer waters. They realized that American society wasn't ready to accept liquor ads, but it sure liked those malted beverage spots! As a result, Americans soon found "hard" malt beverages on store shelves from some of the most recognized liquor labels in the industry.
   Due to slow yet persistent propagation of their labels, liquor companies today are advertising their marquee products without even a bark from the FCC. This example showcases the resolution corporations have to manipulate public perception for profit. Therefore, the question isn't whether or not corporations are successful at conditioning our behavior; they are, but at what point will this programming be deemed unacceptable?
Rad Tollett
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