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There's a moral in Douglas Turner's July 7 column, "Big Tobacco is on the run, but Congress keeps America safe for Big Alcohol." It's that the fight against substance abuse is all but lost so long as we continue to exempt alcohol -- America's No. 1 problem drug -- from scrutiny.

Aside from the responsible and legal enjoyment of alcohol by those over 21, too many Americans consume alcohol excessively, abusively and from a disturbingly early age -- resulting in the dire statistics that Turner recounts.

But advertising disguises alcohol's powerful and addictive nature with images of glamour,vitality and entitlement. This boosts sales andindoctrinates the rest of us with a benevolent mind-set that lulls us into working at its use by children and teen-agers, by boaters and drivers (until a fatality results), and by those who aredying from the disease of alcoholism.

As Sen. Robert Byrd remarked when submitting his proposal to end alcohol's tax-free advertising status, "I am introducing this amendment on behalf of the millions of children who are drinking right now without the full appreciation of what they are doing to themselves, and could potentially do to others."

Now that the distillers have abandoned their half-century long agreement not to sell liquor on television, giving them an impressionable audience of millions of underage Americans, letting Big Alcohol deduct its promotional costs makes no sense at all. The $2.9 billion saved by ending alcohol's privileged status -- if channeled into effective education and prevention programs -- will in turn save billions more in health-care and other costs, and lives beyond counting.

Bill Macvicar Greater Buffalo Council on
Alcohol and Substance Abuse

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