1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN

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In December 2004 the American released the results of two Medical Association (AMA) nationwide surveys, both of which revealed that "alcopops"-sweet, flavored malt beverages with alcohol levels typically higher than those in beer-are very popular among teenagers, particularly females.


Among the surveys' findings were the following: that more teenage girls drink alcopops than boys do (a third of girls, versus a fifth of boys), that 82% of girls who have tried alcopops agree that they taste better than beer or other alcoholic beverages, that a third of respondents believe (incorrectly) that alcopops contain less alcohol than beer, and that one out of four teenage girls who have tried alcopops has driven after drinking or ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking. The surveys were conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited and Harris Interactive and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


"The [ANA] applauds the AMA for bringing attention to this issue," says Patricia Rowell, senior policy fellow at the ANA. While the ANA doesn't have a specific position on alcopops, Rowell says that the organization "decries targeted marketing of all addictive substances-alcohol, tobacco, and drugs-to children." She adds, "In adolescence, girls are at their most vulnerable, [desiring] to be part of the [in] crowd; targeted marketing preys on their vulnerabilities."


United States Beverage, which promotes such beverages as Seagram's Coolers, Seagram's Smooth, Hooper's Hooch Hard Lemonade, Hooch Ice, and Mariner of Holland, states on its Web site that it takes pride in its "commitment of responsible premium alcoholic brand marketing to ensure adult product imagery, and unequivocally opposes the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors."


But the AMA and such organizations as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) remain unconvinced by such statements, maintaining that the language, packaging, and imagery used to market these beverages appeal to teenagers. Seagram's Smooth, for example, is described as "a hip new premium malt beverage born for those who have an edge that sets them apart." Mike's Hard Lemonade offers an array of games on its Web site, including "lime hockey," along with a chat room for "friends of Mike." In a 2004 report called Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, the IOM concluded that wine coolers, alcopops, and "malternatives" (malt-based products with brand names associated with spirits, such as Smirnoff Ice and Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails) resemble soft drinks "in their fruity, sweet flavoring and their colorful single-serving" packaging. The CSPI echoes these findings. In 2001 the organization appealed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to review the labeling and marketing practices for alcopops. "These 'starter' drinks disguise the taste of alcohol with sugar and fruit flavorings and lure some consumers who might other-wise forgo or postpone alcohol use," wrote George Hacker, director of the CSPI's Alcohol Policies Project in a letter to the FTC. Hacker also questioned the labeling and packaging of alcopops, which, he said, make the drinks resemble "nonalcoholic fruit punch beverages and soft drinks."


In response to Hacker's letter, in June 2002 the FTC wrote that it did not find that alcopops "are targeted to minors" but did believe that labeling could be improved. So far, labeling practices have not changed, nor do they clearly disclose the alcoholic contents of these beverages.

FIGURE. The American... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. The American Medical Association has made this educational poster available to help teach adolescents about the dangers of drinking. To download the poster, go to

The AMA has now taken the matter into its own hands, urging clinicians to be more aggressive in discussing with teenagers the harmful effects of alcohol. -Dalia Sofer