Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, concerned about deaths and injuries from drunk driving, today was scheduled to endorse raising taxes on alcoholic beverages and curtailing a major tax break for liquor advertising, informed sources said Tuesday.
Koop is also expected to endorse a series of restrictions on the promotion of alcoholic beverages, such as placing health warning labels on alcoholic beverage bottles and prohibiting so-called happy hours, in which drinks are sold at reduced prices during certain times of the day, the sources said.
Koop will support banning the use of glamorous celebrities in industry ads and prohibiting alcoholic beverage companies from sponsoring sporting events, they added.
The sources said they based their statements on advance copies of documents and materials that Koop will make public today. The recommendations come from a drunk driving workshop Koop sponsored in December, they said.
Koop will endorse all of the workshop proposals at a news conference today at the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the Surgeon General’s office, the sources quoted government officials as saying.
Koop, known for his high-profile campaign against smoking and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome epidemic, has announced plans to go on leave from his post July 13 and to remain on leave until his term ends Sept. 30.
At the news conference, Koop will recommend that Congress raise the excise tax on wine and beer to the level of the tax on hard liquor and that the existing tax on all alcoholic beverages be adjusted for past inflation, the sources said.
Together, these measures would bring an additional $20.6 billion a year into the Treasury, they added.
Groups attending Koop’s workshop estimated that the tax measures will sharply reduce consumption of alcoholic beverages and save the lives of 8,400 to 11,000 people who would otherwise suffer in drinking-related highway accidents.
Koop will support eliminating the tax deduction for all alcohol advertising and any promotion other than price and product ads, the sources said. The move will greatly increase the industry’s cost of image advertising that does not mention specific products or prices.
The Surgeon General will also urge the government to fund advertisements stressing health and safety issues to counter the effects of alcohol ads, the sources said.
Alcohol Industry Gears Up
Televised counter-ads against cigarettes in the late 1960s proved so effective in reducing sales that they led the tobacco industry to accept a legislative ban on broadcast advertising of tobacco products. With the industry’s support, Congress approved such a ban in 1970.
Alcohol and advertising industry groups geared up late Tuesday for a counteroffensive.
“If it’s anything like the preliminary recommendations, we’re going to come out strongly against it,” said Janet Flynn, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council.