The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau recently announced plans to step up its scrutiny of alcoholic beverage advertisements. As the federal agency with principal responsibility for enforcing and administering laws and regulations pertaining to alcoholic beverage production and distribution, the Bureau has in the past maintained a voluntary pre-clearance program, reviewing alcohol advertisements that producers or distributors elected to submit to the Bureau before publication. According to an Industry Circular issued by the Bureau in December 2004, the Bureau now also intends to request selected advertising materials from producers and distributors in order to review them for compliance with federal mandatory and prohibited statement requirements.
The Industry Circular indicates that in conducting this review the Bureau expects to focus on the following issues:
- The presence of mandatory information such as the name and address of the responsible advertiser and product class and type information;
- Statements or depictions that are inconsistent with approved product labels;
- Statements that are false, misleading, or deceptive;
- Statements, designs, or the use of subliminal representations that are obscene or indecent;
- False or misleading statements that are disparaging of a competitor’s product;
- Prohibited uses of the word “pure” for distilled spirits products;
- Misleading or false curative or therapeutic claims;
- The form and use of mandated and optional alcohol content statements;
- Misleading references to carbohydrates, calories, fat, protein, and other macronutrients or “components”; and
- Specific health claims and health-related statements.
The Bureau says it plans to target alcohol producers and distributors for advertising review based on prior compliance history and specific complaints and referrals, as well as random sampling. It will continue to share responsibility for monitoring alcohol advertising with the Federal Trade Commission, which has jurisdiction under the Federal Trade Commission Act to enforce federal prohibitions on unfair and deceptive advertisements.
The full text of the Industry Circular is available at http://www.ttb.gov/index.shtml.