Ads for Latinos Attacked

Promoting liquor in Latino neighborhoods is like pouring gasoline on smoldering embers, a coalition of health and community groups said Thursday, as it called for marketing standards similar to those for tobacco.

Aggressive, multimillion-dollar alcohol advertising campaigns geared toward Latinos exacerbates a community already disproportionately plagued by social ails, said Edwardo Hernandez, author of a report presented by CalPartners Coalition.

“A substantial number of Latinos are dying because of substantial alcohol use,” said Hernandez.

At stake is one of the nation’s fastest growing populations: Latino youths, who will have a dramatic effect on public health, schools and criminal justice, he said. Advertising seems to soak in at an early, vulnerable age, said Hernandez, noting a Corona beer campaign that insists it is the “Drinko for Cinco.”

The group launched its report to counter Cinco de Mayo celebrations around the state where, at some, drunken brawls have eclipsed cultural significance.

Attention from public health leaders, legislators and the industry would create more responsible marketing and sales in the way that public outrage curbed cigarette advertising in recent years, the coalition contends.

“We have a lot to learn from our friends in the tobacco industry,” said Mark Capitolo, spokesman for the coalition.

Industry giant Anheuser-Busch Co. markets to influence adults’ brand choice, said spokesman Louis Deleon in a written statement. The ads are as diverse as the marketplace, he said.

“To suggest that people of a certain ethnic origin should be protected from certain types of advertising is elitist, condescending and insulting.” The company works with Latino-owned advertising agencies to develop culturally sensitive campaigns, he said.

Yet the trend among Latinos runs counter to drinking habits among other ethnic groups, burdening Latinos with a greater share of alcohol-related health problems, Hernandez said.

Between 1984 to 1995, heavy drinking dropped from 20 percent to 12 percent among whites, but edged up among Latinos from 17 percent to 18 percent during the same time, according to a Public Health Institute study.

Specifically, four out of 10 Mexican Americans with alcohol-related problems, like liver disease, die before 50, but only three out of 10 whites with alcohol problems die that young, according to a study published in Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science.

Latinos must examine traditional drinking habits, some imported from homelands, Hernandez conceded, such as heavy drinking tied to religious ceremonies. And though Latinos drink less frequently than other ethnic groups, when they do they drink more, said Hernandez, citing several government studies.

“They may not be aware that bringing home a six-pack is part of the problem,” Capitolo said.

But changing the flow of liquor would be like swimming upstream if marketing strategies are not changed, said Hernandez.

Liquor companies do invest in their markets, offering scholarships and financial support of community events, he said. But organizations should re-consider donations linked to sales of the product, coalition members said.

Centro Guadalupe in Sacramento, a coalition member and Cinco de Mayo fete sponsor, turned down liquor industry money with few sacrifices, said center director Sylvia Villalobos. “Somehow, we got taken care of OK.”

By M.E. Enkoji Bee Staff Writer

(Published March 27, 1998)

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