LEGAL AND NON-LEGAL RESPONSES TO GENDERED ALCOHOL MARKETING.

AuthorGiampetro-Meyer, Andrea

TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 55 I. BACKGROUND 58 A. GENDERED ALCOHOL MARKETING 58 B. SCIENCE 60 II. LEGAL RESPONSES TO GENERED ALCOHOL MARKETING 62 A. FEDERAL REGULATION 62 B. STATE REGULATION 64 III. NON-LEGAL RESPONSES TO GENDERED ALCOHOL MARKETING 66 A. INDUSTRY SELF-REGULATION 66 B. PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGNS 67 CONCLUSION 69 INTRODUCTION

Women of all ages (2) are drinking more now than ever before. (3) From pink-themed cocktails (4) to mommy-themed wine (5) to straight-up bourbon, (6) women's increased drinking is a trend, and perhaps even a lifestyle. (7) But this trend is not a coincidence. For the past decade or more, alcohol companies have ramped up gendered marketing efforts (8) that encourages more women to drink more. Alcohol companies want women to believe that drinking like men is a sign of strength or equality. (9)

They also want women to believe that drinking is safe, healthy, and sexy. (10) Moreover, the alcohol industry has given us role models, especially television heroines (11) who appear to need alcohol on demand. (12) The alcohol industry is successfully tapping into a formerly underserved market, (13) but at women's expense. In essence, gendered alcohol marketing is gendered tobacco marketing, take two. (14) Just as tobacco companies grew their market fifty years ago by encouraging women to smoke, alcohol companies are expanding their market by encouraging women to drink a variety of wines and spirits (15) designed just for them. The purpose of this Article is to consider gendered alcohol marketing as a public health issue. It advocates legal and non-legal responses to marketing that empower women (16) to make informed choices about their health. Section I describes gendered alcohol marketing and presents scientific evidence about alcohol-related harm, especially fatal cancers. Section II considers legal responses to gendered alcohol marketing and alcohol-related harm. This section highlights federal regulation of alcohol labeling and marketing and possible state-level responses. Section III describes non- legal responses to gendered alcohol marketing and its health consequences. This section explores and dismisses the possibility that the alcohol industry can engage in effective self-regulation. It also describes how government agencies, the media, nonprofit organizations, and citizens can take action to empower women through public education campaigns. Alcohol companies have a strong interest in withholding or providing misleading information that distorts women's consumer behavior. (17) Women must fight for honest and complete information using legal and non-legal tools. (18)

  1. BACKGROUND

    1. GENDERED ALCOHOL MARKETING

      Drinking is an understandable, yet problematic, way for women to cope with life. (19) Women generally do not have it easy these days. (20) From unchanging societal expectations that women "do it all" (21) to never-ending ignorance about the toll sexual violence takes on women, (22) it is not surprising that women seek to soften the edges with alcohol. Unlike yoga and mindfulness, alcohol provides an immediate release with virtually no effort. Unfortunately, though, alcohol is a poor choice for women who care about their health. Scientists know that, overall, women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men. (23) They also know that alcohol causes cancer. (24) Alcohol consumption is a serious public-health issue, especially for women. Some women are starting to question whether alcohol caused their cancer, especially breast cancer. Evidence suggests we should all be asking more questions about the link between alcohol and cancer. (25)

      As evidence mounts that alcohol is bad for consumers, especially women, alcohol companies have used their marketing expertise to downplay the risks. Companies have marketed alcohol as all natural, gluten free, and fitness friendly. (26) They promise women that alcohol will relieve their stress, help them cope with parenting, and/or serve as a reward for hard work. (27) No matter whether a woman is a college student, (28) young professional, (29) new mom, (30) high-level executive, (31) or recent retiree, (32) alcohol is a woman's best friend. (33) Moreover, alcohol companies have been successful at marketing alcohol as a product that improves health. They have worked with the media to proclaim that health benefits of moderate drinking, with limited and questionable evidence to support these so-called health benefits. (35) If a woman ends up with health problems related to alcohol consumption, alcohol companies are quick to blame her for failing to engage in self-control. (36) As one writer commented, "[m]arketing a potentially cancer-causing addictive drug as a healthy choice is nothing new." (37) Just as tobacco marketing failed to show the consequences of smoking, alcohol marketing fails to show the consequences of drinking. With tobacco, it took a long time for consumers to believe that advertising and marketing had interfered with consumers' freedom of choice. (38) Although public health experts believe that tobacco companies are eviler than alcohol companies, (39) "[t]he alcohol industry is the new tobacco industry," especially regarding its strategies for recruiting new users. (40)

    2. SCIENCE

      Cancers are a group of diseases "in which abnormal cells uncontrollably develop and spread in the body." (41) Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world, after heart disease. (42) A person develops cancer as a result of both outside forces (including exposure to toxins such as alcohol and tobacco) (43) and internal forces (such as genetic makeup and immune deficiencies). (44) Individuals can remove risk factors, including exposure to alcohol.

      Alcohol is a carcinogen. (45) Scientists have found compelling evidence that drinking causes at least seven types of cancer: mouth and throat; esophagus; larynx (voice box), liver, colon, rectum, and breast. (46) "Alcohol may be a risk factor for other malignancies, including pancreatic and gastric cancers." (47)

      Alcohol is particularly risky for women. Women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men. (48) Women's higher body fat, increased estrogen levels, and decreased dehydrogenase levels contribute to women's vulnerability. (49) Even modest alcohol consumption is a problem. (50) However, researchers have observed the greatest risks with heavy, long-term use." (51) With regard to breast cancer, Dr. Mary Beth Terry, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York, has stated that "[a]lcohol is the only dietary factor consistently associated with breast cancer risk and one of the few modifiable risk factors for the disease." (52)

  2. LEGAL RESPONSES TO GENDERED ALCOHOL MARKING

    1. FEDERAL REGULATIONS

      Ireland is the first country in the world that will require the alcohol industry to warn consumers about the clear link between alcohol consumption and cancer. (53) Ireland plans to reduce the burden of cancer on its citizens. (54) Regulators have passed requirements that will go into effect in the coming months. (55) The alcohol industry in the United States is subject to both federal and state law. (56) A three- tier distribution system requires a supplier to sell only to a wholesaler (distributor); a wholesaler to only sell to a retailer (store, bar, restaurant) or another wholesaler; and retailers to sell only to consumers. (57) Although the United States includes alcohol warnings as a public health strategy, it does not warn consumers about the link between alcohol and cancer. (58) Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress formed the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the Treasury Department. The TTB assumed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) duties regarding enforcement of the Federal Alcohol Act of 1935 (FAA Act). (59) Other government agencies--including the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)--also have regulatory power over the alcohol industry. (60) For...

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