Liquor control board adopts advertising restrictions

The Bellingham Business Journal

On March 3, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) adopted revised alcohol advertising rules that will restrict the presence of outdoor alcohol advertising at licensed locations. The advertising restrictions will go into effect on April 3.

The revised rules are based on extensive public input requesting that the board restrict the size, amount and location of alcohol advertising at liquor-licensed locations.

“Protecting children is the board’s No. 1 priority,” said WSLCB Chair Sharon Foster and co-chair of the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD). “These new rules are a positive step forward in that regard.”

Highlights include: limiting to four the number of signs advertising alcohol, brand names and manufacturers that are visible from the outside of a retail licensed premises such as stores, bars and restaurants; restricting the size of alcohol signs visible from the outside of a retail licensed premises to 1,600 square inches; and applying the rules to signs at civic events where alcohol is served, such as beer gardens.

Studies show that children are heavily exposed to alcohol advertising which can lead to underage drinking. According to the 2008 Healthy Youth Survey administered by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and taken by kindergarten to high school students statewide, 16 percent of eighth graders had at least one drink in the last month; 32 percent of 10th graders had at least one drink in the last month; and 41 percent of 12th graders had at least one drink in the last month.

Limiting outdoor advertising is the result of widespread input from individuals and organizations across the state. The alcohol prevention community, which includes school and community-based organizations, has consistently listed it among its highest priorities. It is also a recommendation of various studies including those by the Surgeon General, Journal of Adolescent Health and the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

At the Feb. 24 public hearing held at WSLCB headquarters, the board room was filled with students, professionals and concerned citizens who traveled from locations across the state to testify in favor of the proposed advertising rules.

“This is the strongest outpouring of effort on a public policy issue that I’ve ever seen from the alcohol prevention community,” said RUaD Co-Chair Michael Langer.

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