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Teetotaler Thurmond Raps Spuds MacKenzie Beer Promotion

November 13, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Waving a stuffed ″Spuds MacKenzie″ doll in the Senate chamber, Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., accused the alcohol beverage industry Friday of encouraging drinking among youngsters and reneging on a promise to warn them about the dangers of alcoholism.

Thurmond, 84, a teetotaler who abstains even from coffee and soft drinks, cited the Spuds MacKenzie promotional campaign by Anheuser-Busch for its Bud Light beer as an example of advertisements that ″glamorize the use of alcohol″ among young people.

Flanked by blown-up advertising posters featuring the popular bull terrier who is dubbed the ″original party animal,″ Thurmond said in a floor speech that Anheuser-Busch has dismissed critics’ demands that the brewery halt its Spuds MacKenzie campaign.

Instead, Thurmond said, manufacturers are gearing for heavy Christmas sales of Spuds MacKenzie toys, posters and T-shirts for youngsters.

″Is this the kind of responsibility which we can expect from the alcohol beverage industry in the future?″ Thurmond asked. ″If so, I think we in Congress should get to work on some major policy changes.

″I am fully cognizant of the free-speech rights of the alcohol beverage industry. However, what is the cost to society of this freedom to advocate unlawful teen-age drinking?″ he asked.

Thurmond quoted Michael Roarty, executive vice president of Anheuser-Busch, as saying Spuds MacKenzie was created to promote Bud Light only for those ″old enough to drink.″

But the senator said the stuffed animals, children’s toys and T-shirts small enough to fit 12-year-olds ″indicate the real purpose of this campaign.″

Stephen K. Lambright, vice president and group executive of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. in St. Louis, said Spuds MacKenzie is ″designed to sell beer only to those above the legal minimum age of consumption.″ He said Anheuser-Busch takes pains to avoid offending those customers ″by appearing to market to their children.″

Lambright said the popularity of the Spuds character has spawned many unauthorized products bearing its likeness. He said Anheuser-Busch is ″making strong legal efforts″ to have them removed from the market.

The senator said added evidence of the industry’s ″lack of responsibility″ is seen in advertising that gives the impression that wine coolers, a blend of wine and carbonated fruit juice containing as much as 6 percent alcohol, are actually soft drinks.

″I am not confident in the voluntary efforts of the alcohol beverage industry to increase public awareness of the hazards of alcohol abuse,″ Thurmond said. ″With 12-year-olds drinking wine coolers and wearing ‘Spuds MacKenzie’ T-shirts, there is no basis for such confidence.″

Thurmond said his repeated efforts to win passage of a bill requiring health warning labels on alcohol beverages have failed because ″the full power of the alcohol beverage industry is exerted against it.″

″There is no stronger lobby in this nation than the alcohol beverage lobby,″ he said. ″However, today alcohol is the No. 1 drug of abuse in our country.″

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