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Alcohol Ads Hit the Internet


April 1995

More and more alcohol manufacturers are signing on to the Internet, adding to the debate about what kind of regulations should govern advertising on the new medium (Fara Warner, "Cheers! Its Happy Hour in Cyberspace," Wall Street Journal, Mar. 15, 1995, p. B1).

Internet users can now enjoy Jim Beam Brands' bar World Wide Web site, which allows its visitors to call up drink recipes. Virtual customers can sit in the cartoon bar and even write on the bar's bathroom walls. The site carries a warning label to discourage users under 21, but there is no way to "I.D." at the Internet door.

Liquor companies have agreed to a voluntary ban on advertising in radio and television since those media began, and cigarette advertising was banned from electronic media in 1970. Both liquor and cigarettes can be advertised in magazines. This opens the question: is the Internet more like television or magazines?

Cigarette companies are not rushing to the Internet. Since phone lines are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and cigarette advertising is banned from any media regulated by the FCC, cigarette manufacturers say they have assumed they cannot advertise on the Internet.

The Federal Trade Commission planned to discuss the issue at a conference in April.