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In the Crossfire

Are liquor companies targeting teens?

(CNN) -- Consumer advocates say fruity malt beverages known as "alcopops" are being marketed to millions of teen-agers in television ads, while liquor industry representatives say such complaints have no merit.

George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest steps into the "Crossfire" with hosts James Carville and Robert Novak to discuss the issue.

NOVAK: Mr. Hacker, I know you're a serious person ...

HACKER: I try to be.

CARVILLE: Damn good guest, too.

NOVAK: ... and you're very dedicated to what you're doing. But let me tell you something. We've got a lot of young people in this audience. I'm not going to take a poll of how many of them have done underage drinking.

But I tell you, kids are going to drink. And whether they drink this sweet stuff or they drink Budweiser or they drink wine -- I mean, why are you so excited about this?

HACKER: I said before [that] eliminating or reducing the advertising or disallowing the opportunity for the liquor industry to target kids on TV in the millions, which is what we found in our recent poll, is not going to eliminate underage drinking. Advertising is only one influence, but it's one we can do something about.

We could send all the parents in America for retraining about how to keep their kids off of alcohol and drugs and keep them from having premarital sex and everything else, but that would be rather inefficient.

NOVAK: ... premarital sex.

CARVILLE: ... We brought it up, you want to make some confessions here, too, Mr. Novak?

HACKER: The connection is -- the connection is that drinking this stuff sometimes leads to premarital sex and other serious problems.

CARVILLE: Oh, really?

NOVAK: Now you're really shocking me.

CARVILLE: Oh, man. You mean to tell me that some of these guys like him, this encourages ...

NOVAK: But this -- aren't you -- Mr. Hacker, I don't want to insult you because you're a good guest and we're glad you came, but aren't you in the old bluenose puritan tradition when you're worried about all this premarital sex and drinking and all that? Oh, the kids are going a rock 'n' rolling?

HACKER: You know, I think your attitude is good to get out here. Because you have to understand that alcohol in this country is a major social, economic ...

NOVAK: Part of the American tradition.

HACKER: Sure is. And we're not going to get rid of it. We're not about getting rid of it, but we have to acknowledge that alcohol causes massive economic and social harm in this country. It's the No. 1 drug problem among young people in this country and probably the No. 1 drug problem amongst everyone.

NOVAK: I've got an answer.


NOVAK: Prohibition.


NOVAK: Oh, OK. They tried it once.

HACKER: We're not about prohibition. ...

You're really missing the point here. You're really missing the point, because the point is not that dealing with this is going to eliminate all drinking. The point is that in this age of corporate greed and corporate irresponsibility, you know, we have an industry here that is going after underage kids. The reason they go after underage kids is because that's where their new market is.

CARVILLE: I may make a little fun of you, but as a parent, I'm glad you and your group are out there because they shouldn't be marketing this stuff to kids.




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