If the Children Can Drink Uncola, What About Unbeer?
By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Kidsbeer, a Japanese soft drink bottled and formulated to look like beer, may soon be available throughout Europe, but watchdogs of underage drinking say they will fight any effort to ship it to the United States.
The drink, which comes in a brown bottle and is advertised with the slogan "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink", is lager-colored and foams like beer, but tastes like cola.
Introduced two years ago, it is sold by more than 150 restaurants and supermarkets in Japan, according to Tomomasu, the small bottler that makes it. Beer is widely available in vending machines in Japan, where the legal drinking age is 20.
An article in August in The Sunday Telegraph in London about plans to introduce Kidsbeer, first to Britain, then to the rest of Europe, caused a fuss among alcohol industry critics and government officials.
Tim Loughton, a member of Parliament, told The Telegraph that the drink's expected arrival was "an alarming development." Neither a British soft drink association nor an alcohol watchdog group could confirm that Kidsbeer was in Britain.
Amon Rappaport, a spokesman for the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog based in California, said Kidsbeer would "unwittingly play into the alcohol industry's efforts to glamorize drinking and introduce kids to beer." The group criticizes beer product placement in youth-oriented PG-13 movies like "Dodge Ball" and "Hell Boy."
"The last thing we need is another product that introduces kids to drinking when the alcohol industry already spends billions doing that," Mr. Rappaport said.
George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit group based in Washington, said that if any company were to introduce a similar product in the United States, there would be immediate opposition. (Tomomasu has not said it has such plans.) "Given the strong antidrug movement in this country, my sense is the outrage would be immediate and overwhelming," Mr. Hacker said.
The last company that marketed a look-alike beer ended up with a public relations hangover. In 1995, Royal Crown drew the ire of Lee P. Brown, then the White House drug policy adviser, for its Royal Crown Draft Premium Cola, which also was in a brown bottle and beer-colored. The company agreed to change the soda's packaging, most notably its label, on which "draft" had been by far the largest word.
In 1978, Anheuser-Busch inflamed politicians, clergy and doctors when it introduced Chelsea (slogan: "the not so soft drink"), which also foamed like beer but had less then a quarter the alcohol content of regular beer. After critics called it "baby beer" and said it would foster underage drinking, the company withdrew the beverage.
While tomorrow's barflies may lack pretend booze, they can still pretend to light up. Both Necco and World Candies continue to produce candy cigarettes, which are widely available on the Web and in candy stores. According to an article in The British Medical Journal in August 2000, some cigarette makers once authorized candy makers to mimic their package designs and logos.
The article, by Jonathan D. Klein, a pediatrician, and Steve St. Claire, a lawyer, found that "sixth graders who reported having used candy cigarettes were twice as likely to have also smoked tobacco cigarettes, regardless of parental smoking status."
Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Australia and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that have banned candy cigarettes, according to the article. Proposed federal legislation banning them in the United States, however, failed in 1970 and 1990.
Now that's cool as hell. This article actually came out like a month ago and I bookmarked it for later reprinting but had completely forgotten about it. I used to love candy cigarettes as a kid and actually ordered a big box of them around a year ago for nostalgia sake. It wasn't exactly easy to find either thanks to the farging PC liberal facists out there. I wasn't able to track down that bubblegum cigarette which when you blew on it puffed out smoke-like powdered sugar. I love these things and yet somehow managed to go through my life without even taking a puff of a single real cigarette. I used to also eat those candy lipsticks and somehow managed to not become a crossdresser or transvestite.
Say what you want about the japanese but they've got a real 'give the middle finger to the world' sort of attitude when it comes to things like this. I can't imagine many places where 'kid beer' actually could be put on the market in a serious way. You also have to really admire the farging slogan which, as far as I'm concerned, might just be the best I've ever seen. "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink." Cuts right to the chase, eh?