The Center for Science in the Public Interest has sent a letter to the head
of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, with copies to CSPI's friends in
Congress, complaining that NASCAR and anti-drug public service announcements
CSPI singled out the use of driver Jimmy Spencer in PSA's, since he is
sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. But it also referred to NASCAR's "nonstop"
reminders of drinking: "Beer brand logos are omnipresent on NASCAR's drivers'
uniforms, cars, infield equipment and kid-friendly promotional items," CSPI's
Alcohol Policies Project Director George Hacker wrote.
Calling beer the "major drug problem" for young people, CSIP asked ONDCP
Director John Walters to reevaluate the NASCAR partnership and to include
anti-alcohol messages among those supported by the Youth Anti-Drug Media
Campaign. That campaign buys PSA's on major media with the stipulation that
those media match that time with their own anti-drug messages.
Among the representatives receiving the letter were Virginia Republican Frank
Wolf and California Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard, who, along with CSPI and
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are trying to drum up support for a hearing in
Energy & Commerce on alcohol marketing to young people.
ONDCP spokesman Tom Riley responds that 'if you want to reach young people
effectively, NASCAR is a good medium.' The administration thinking, says one
source, is that NASCAR is essentially an advertising vehicle (literally and
figuratively) and that not to use it because it also advertises beer would be
like not putting PSA's in NFL games because they are also a major vehicle for
Riley also says ONDCP's anti-drug media campaign does include "millions of
dollars" worth of PSA's decrying underage drinking, and that it is an issue that
Drug Czar John Walters is concerned about and plans to address more
specifically. How much money he will have to do so remains to be seen. ONDCP's
funding has yet to be set for 2003. Currently the House markup has a figure of
$170 million, down $10 million. The Senate version would cut funding almost in
half -- to $100 million -- while the administration is still pushing for full
funding at $180 million.