Gov. Blagojevich Signs Law to Protect Teens from 'alcopop' Advertising

Legislation Prohibits Marketing of Flavored Alcoholic Beverages to Minors

Representatives from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich's administration joined today with the legislative sponsors of Senate Bill 1625 and alcohol prevention advocates to announce how the new law will protect Illinois minors. The Governor signed SB 1625 into law today to prevent the advertisement or promotion of flavored alcoholic beverages, or 'alcopops', to children. 'Alcopops' are alcoholic beverages that are blended with fruit juice, lemonade or other flavorings. Examples include 'hard lemonade' and 'twisted tea'. SB 1625, sponsored by State Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) and State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), will fine companies that promote 'alcopops' to minors $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for a second offense.

"Too often we let the advertising industry decide what our children see and consume. We need to stand up on behalf of Illinois children and protect them from advertising that entices minors to drink alcohol and break the law," said Gov. Blagojevich. "This legislation will protect those too young to deal with the responsibility and consequences associated with drinking alcohol."

SB 1625 is aimed at reducing the marketing, promotion, and advertising of alcopops to minors. This would include cartoons and youth oriented photos; sponsorship of athletic events where the intended audience is primarily children; billboards advertising alcopops within 500 feet of a school, public park, amusement park, or place of worship; and the display of any alcopop beverage in video games, theatre productions, or other live performances where the intended audience is primarily children.

Today, representatives from Governor Blagojevich's Administration joined with the legislative sponsors of SB 1625 and alcohol prevention advocates at TASC (Treatment Options for Safe Communities), a non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago that works with teens and adults with alcohol substance abuse and mental health disorders. Director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission Lainie Krozel presented a copy of the signed bill to Senator Ronen and Representative Harris and thanked them on behalf of the Governor for bringing this important to legislation to his desk.

"By signing this legislation, the Governor has sealed our commitment to reducing underage drinking. We are responsible for our children, and we need to fight outside influences pressuring them to break the law," said Sen. Ronen.

"Alcopop advertisers use the lure of youth and popularity to attract teenagers, especially the females, to their alcoholic products," said Rep. Harris. "We must protect children from the dangers of underage drinking by putting a stop to ads that make it look 'cool'."

With one-third of teen girls having tried alcopops-and one out of six in the past six months-alcopops have become a "gateway beverage (for) less-experienced drinkers," according to a 2004 American Medical Association (AMA) poll. Another 2004 study found that girls aged 12-20 years were more exposed to alcopop ads in magazines than the targeted age group of 21-34 year-old women.

This law follows a 1998 court settlement, which prohibited the tobacco industry from targeting youth in ads and marketing. The settlement stipulated that cartoon characters such as Joe Camel were banned from tobacco advertising, promotions, packaging and labeling. Sale of tobacco brand merchandise, such as apparel and backpacks, was prohibited and event sponsorship was restricted.

"We are extremely pleased that Governor Blagojevich has signed Senate Bill 1625 into law. By signing SB 1625, the Governor is demonstrating his national leadership in the fight against underage drinking. As we have seen in recent months in Illinois, underage drinking leads to the tragedy of teen deaths as a result of teens drinking and driving," said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

In a continued effort to reduce underage drinking in Illinois, Governor Blagojevich also today announced $10 million in grants over 5 years to 18 organizations across the state to focus on reducing risky use of alcohol. This includes but is not limited to underage and childhood drinking, binge drinking, and or deaths from alcohol related motor vehicle crashes.

SB 1625 becomes effective June 1, 2008.