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Royal Crown, Drug Czar Announce Label Change on 'Draft Cola'

Royal Crown Co. agreed to change the label of its new ''draft'' cola so it doesn't appear to be brewed alcoholic beer, the company and the nation's drug czar announced.

The old label has ''Royal Crown Draft'' in the middle of a star with ''draft'' the largest word and ''premium cola'' in small type at the bottom.

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The new label will read ''Royal Crown Draft Cola,'' with the word cola the same size as the word draft. ''Premium cola'' still appears at the bottom.

''We have taken a big step to make it clear that what we are selling is absolutely cola,'' says Don Lenehan, senior vice president of marketing for Royal Crown, which put its first cola on the market 60 years ago.

The label-change decision comes a week after Lee Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, challenged corporations to eliminate or modify ''look-alikes'' that appear to be alcohol or tobacco products and often appeal to children.

''There is a corporate practice in this country that involves packaging and marketing that sometimes blurs right from wrong for our children, and this amounts to cultural seduction of kids,'' Mr. Brown says.

Brown contends that children who use a growing line of products that resemble whiskey, beer, and chewing tobacco, for example, are more likely to begin using real cigarettes and alcohol - leading them down the road to illegal drug use.

Studies link tobacco and alcohol use to increased drug use in children, but there's no evidence to show that look-alikes prompt children to smoke or chew tobacco or begin drinking.

''We don't have any hard data to show look-alikes lead to use of the real thing,'' says Fred Garcia, a deputy director of the antidrug agency. ''But the real concern is the glamorization of those products.''

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Mr. Lenehan says Royal Crown decided to change the draft cola label after hearing concerns from Brown and others that it appears to be a look-alike beer for children. But the company targets the product toward upscale adults who have money to spend on ''premium products,'' Lenehan says. ''Children were not part of the equation when we were designing the product.''

The 12-ounce beverage patterned after draft root beer - comes in a long-necked brown bottle and costs $3.99 to $4.99 for a six-pack.

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