New Study Documents Diageo's Joe Camel-like Tactics (cont.)

The case study documents the dramatic shift in beverage preference of America’s youth from beer to distilled spirits during the last decade and examines the role of distilled spirits marketing in challenging beer’s dominance of the youth market.

Diageo, a British company and the world’s largest distilled spirits producer, played a leading role in this intra-industry competition, through an innovative strategy for converting its Smirnoff Vodka brand from an old man’s drink to a youth brand.

For decades, beer has been young people’s beverage of choice.  In the U.S., beer producers had three key regulatory advantages over distilled spirits: lower taxes, easier availability, and access to electronic media advertising.  Diageo, formed in 1997 out of several smaller alcohol companies, was determined to reverse this trend and take distilled spirits to a dominant position in the U.S. market.  Smirnoff Ice, a new product treated as a beer for regulatory purposes although it contained distilled spirits and bore Diageo’s flagship vodka brand name, provided a wedge into the beer market.  Through use of youth-oriented advertising, placement in youth-oriented media outlets, and a new product design that catered to youthful tastes, Smirnoff Ice became popular among young people.  Smirnoff Ice’s success preceded a dramatic shift in the fortunes of Smirnoff Vodka.

The report documents Diageo’s sophisticated public relations campaign launched concurrently with the introduction of Smirnoff Ice that served to shield the company from criticism and investigation.  

The report concludes with an assessment of the public health implications of these marketing practices.  Underage drinking constitutes a public health crisis in the United States. As noted by the U.S. Surgeon General, “the short-and long-term consequences that arise from underage alcohol consumption are astonishing in their range and magnitude …. [It] is a leading contributor to death from injuries, which are the main cause of death for people under 21.”  Including the costs of underage drinking, alcohol costs the U.S. $223 billion per year, or approximately $1.90 for every drink consumed. 

The report calls for further and focused investigation of alcohol marketing and its impact on youth:

  • How do alcohol industry practices compare with the actions of other corporate players, including the tobacco industry?
  • How has the increased popularity of specific distilled spirits brands influenced youth consumption and related problems?
  • How do companies like Diageo use their lobbying and public relations muscle to support their marketing plans and influence alcohol policy development and implementation?

A pre-publication version of the report is available on line at:

New Keynote Presentation: Alcohol Policy and Social Change (cont.)

-Crippling cuts to public health, education, environmental protection, law enforcement and other public functions;

-The increasing dominance of large corporations in state and federal policy making;

-Privatization of public functions; and

Mosher uses alcohol policy as a case study illustrating these disturbing societal trends.

The alcohol policy case study focuses on:

  • The alcohol industry's marketing strategies that target young people and the lack of government action to stop these deceptive and destructive practices;
  • The profits gained by the industry from underage and excessive drinking;
  • Alcohol industry dominance in the policy arena, particularly at the state and federal levels;
  • The cost of alcohol problems to society and to government compared to the taxes collected, showing that the industry's profits are being subsidized by the rest of society;
  • The huge salaries and net worth of the top alcohol industry executives (making them part of the .1% in terms of wealth distribution) who supervise the development and implementation of these corporate practices while cutting jobs in their companies; and
  • The cuts facing the alcohol prevention and treatment fields funding at the same time that industry profits are soaring. 

He concludes by discussing the critical importance of implementing alcohol policies, particularly alcohol taxes, and the role of community organizing in engaging citizens and constituencies in alcohol policy advocacy as a means to engage them in the policy process. Citizen engagement in the democratic process is required if we are going to restore our historical commitment to public health and insure that our government institutions  protect the public good rather than the profits of the alcohol industry. 

Alcohol Industry Marketing and Its Impact on Youth


Alcopop products, such as Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, are popular among young teens, and particularly teenage girls. These are “transition” beverages designed for “new drinkers” that encourage early experimentation.

Through his research, Jim Mosher uncovered the alcopop producer’s deceptive claims that these beverages should be taxed and regulated as beer instead of distilled spirits – an important distinction for making the products affordable and readily available to young people. His analysis has prompted a national effort to advocate for the reclassification of alcopops as distilled spirits.

Alcopop Classification
click map to enlarge and see details

Mosher’s briefing paper presented to the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Underage Access to Alcohol | PDF |

Special Report: Status of State Campaigns to Rstrict the Availability of Alcopops:
February 10, 2009 | PDF |

Journal Article on Alcopops: Flavored Alcoholic Beverages: An International Marketing Campaign that Targets Youth. | Abstract and Information on Purchasing Article |

Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Four Loko and other Alcoholic Energy Drinks (AEDs) have been linked to dozens of tragedies across the country, particularly on college campuses, including fatal automobile crashes, rapes, and alcohol poisonings. Packaged in 23.9 ounce cans with 12 percent alcohol, the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee worth of caffeine, and loads of sugar, this high powered brew has become popular with young people, with tragic consequences.
For articles describing problem incidents involving Four Loko and other AEDs, click here >

The FDA initiated an investigation of AEDs in November 2009. In the meantime, the FDA, States, local communities and colleges are taking action themselves to either ban or restrict AEDs. As of November 15, 2010, six States have initiated bans.
For more information on these state actions, click here >

Action on Alcoholic Energy Drinks MapMosher assisted the City of Thousand Oaks, California in enacting the first local ordinance requiring retailers to post signs warning customers of the risks of mixing alcohol and caffeine. For more information, click here >

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs contracted with Mosher to develop the content for a special website on AEDs. It contains numerous resources, including summaries of research, action alerts, fact sheets, news articles, and other resources. Go to

Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix
by Michele Simon and James Mosher | PDF |

Social Host Liability

social host liabilityModel Social Host Ordinance | PDF |

Alcohol Retail Availability and Community Health

community healthBest Practices in Municipal Regulation | PDF |

RBS Programs

State Laws Mandating or Promoting Training Programs
| Abstract and Information on Purchasing Article |

Dram Shop Liability

Click here for Dram Shop maps  >

Status of Dram Shop Liability by State, 1989, 2011, Underage

Status of Dram Shop Liability by State, 1989, 2011, Adult

Delphi Panel on State Dram Shop Liability Laws: Final Report

Mosher, J. and other contributors, Liquor Liability Law
| Abstract and Information on Purchasing Article |

State Preemption

Alcohol Policy Consultations has completed a series of State legal analyses on the State Preemption as it applies to regulation of retail alcohol outlet density.  States included are: California, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, and Wisconsin.  The analyses serve as the foundation for a manuscript submitted for publication assessment of the preemption doctrine as it applies across the 50-states. 

State Legal Analyses: 

California >

Georgia >

Maryland >

Nebraska >

New York >

Wisconsin >

PowerPoint Presentations

Keynote Presentation: Shutting off the Tap to Teens and Young Adults: Preventing Underage Drinking Through Policy Conference
Minneapolis, MN - December 2, 2009
Alcohol Policy, Underage Drinking Prevention, and the Health Care Reform Debate
PowerPoint > | PDF >

Resources on Social Host Ordinances : 2 PowerPoint presentations by James Mosher at the Socorro, New Mexico Training, November 18, 2009
1. Social Host Ordinances: An Environmental Strategy for Reducing Underage Drinking Parties | PowerPoint > | PDF >
2. Social Host Ordinances: Planning Steps
| PowerPoint > | PDF >


alcopops powerpointThe Great Alcopops Debate | 4.6mb |
James F. Mosher, JD
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
Luncheon Address, Alcohol Policy 14 Conference
January 28, 2008


energy drinks powerpointAlcohol Availability and the Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems | 11.4mb |
Michele Simon, JD, MPH - Marin Institute
James Mosher, JD - Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation