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'No Drink of Moderation'

President Clinton's war on drugs is edging toward a massive target, alcohol - and ironically he's under both friendly and unfriendly fire. It began this week after his welcome but halfway call for the Federal Communications Commission to explore banning hard liquor (not beer) TV ads. The industry has resumed these after voluntarily forgoing them for years.

"Liquor ads on television would provide a message of encouragement to drink that young people simply don't need," the president said.

About these ads

Why single out the hard stuff? This was the cry of distillers, patriotically cherishing the freedom to advertise what they want.

Why not also target ads for beer, young Americans' alcoholic beverage of choice? This was the plea of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, wondering why any form of a bad thing should be encouraged.

Remember gun advocates who put all the burden on conduct and none on controlling gun availability: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Now comes a distillers' spokesman who puts the burden on conduct and not on splitting hairs between beer and other booze on TV: "The fact is that there is no drink of moderation, only the practice."

The unintended consequence of such a spin is a stark reminder that no form of alcohol should have the run of the public airwaves. But then, as with guns, so with alcohol, controlling a dangerous product does not relieve us from controlling ourselves.

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