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Close Taps On TV Beer Ads?

A consumer group known for criticizing the fat in things like movie theater popcorn, fast food, and pizza has a new target: advertising for alcohol.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest kicked off a campaign Wednesday aimed at getting colleges and universities, athletic conferences, and the NCAA to stop taking money from alcohol advertisers.

George Hacker, director of the CSPI's alcohol policies project, said college administrators who are trying to cut down on underage drinking on campus can't look the other way when it comes to beer ads during televised college sports games.

"University officials are selling their students and other young fans to beer marketers, and at the same time their greatest concern on campus is alcohol problems," said Hacker. "They lose a great deal of credibility," he added.

Helping launch the campaign were former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith — college basketball's all-time winningest coach — and Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb. — former University of Nebraska head football coach.

Hacker charged that beer marketers are clearly targeting underage drinkers, a point which the alcohol industry took issue with.

"The fact is that the vast majority of those persons that watch and attend college sports, as well as the majority of students in college, are of legal drinking age, 21 or older," said Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, which is a trade association for the malt beverage industry.

The CSPI said alcohol producers spent nearly $600 million on sports programming in 2002. Of that, about 10 percent, nearly $60 million, was spent on college sports programs — funding more than 6,200 ads.

Hacker said the NCAA basketball tournament in 2002 had 939 beer ads — more than the Super Bowl, World Series, college football bowl games and NFL Monday Night Football combined.

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