Sunday, February 22, 2004

The sharks smell blood in the water

Beer may suffer the Joe Camel effect: Suit against brewers sounds very familiar

If a new class action lawsuit forces Anheuser-Busch Inc. and Miller Brewing Co. to pay billions of dollars in damages for alleged marketing to underage drinkers, it will be because the nation's two largest brewers were linked with an advertising icon-turned-villain: Joe Camel.

That animated figure became a potent symbol of Big Tobacco's selling of cigarettes to minors and was dropped as the result of a lawsuit. Now, Anheuser-Busch and Miller face claims that TV ads starring cartoon frogs that croak "Bud . . . weis . . . er," the introduction of malt-based drinks with sweetened citrus flavors, and other actions are proof of a concerted marketing effort aimed at people younger than 21.
If it's a cartoon, it must be targetting tykes! Bad news for animators, good news for the "Swedish Bikini Team." Hmm, maybe they're directed at kids too? How about Dr. Ruth for Miller Lite?
"This is about pitching your product expressly or implicitly to underage people," said Robert Carey, an attorney with the Hagens Berman law firm, which filed the suit earlier this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The Seattle-based firm has built a reputation as one of the nation's top tobacco litigators.
It would save a lot of time all around for serious people if we just had a national "sin tax" on booze, butts, fast food and other designated sins and transferred the money directly to a slush fund for lawyers. Then let them sue each other to divvy it up.