Oct. 27, 2016 – Allowing alcohol company logos within America’s national parks disregards public health and puts youth at risk of dangerous drinking behavior, a coalition of 66 health groups said today in a letter (PDF) to the National Park Service (NPS).
“As organizations dedicated to protecting public health – especially the health of children and adolescents – we are deeply troubled by the stated plans of the National Park Service to allow permanent partnerships with alcohol companies,” the groups state in their letter.
The coalition is calling on the parks service to abandon its plans to allow partnerships with alcohol companies, which is defined in the NPS policy called Director’s Order #21 (“DO21”). The groups urge the NPS to maintain its current policy, which states that corporate campaigns “must be conducted with high standards that maintain the integrity of the NPS and its partners” and does not allow partnerships with alcohol or tobacco companies.
“America’s families rely on our national parks as a refuge from harmful commercial messages,” said Diane Riibe, chair of the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance. “Our kids see enough alcohol marketing in their daily lives without the National Park Service piling on even more. They need to rethink this wrongheaded policy change.”
The groups maintain that as a public agency, the parks service should act in the best interest of public health and safety. Ample research has found a significant and consistent connection between excessive underage drinking and the number of alcohol advertisements to which youth are exposed, the groups noted. Allowing alcohol brand logos within parks could encourage underage drinking and damage the reputation of national parks as safe spaces for children and families.
“It is dangerous and irresponsible for the National Park Service to ignore the volumes of research linking alcohol advertising to alcohol use. Moreover, it is contradictory for the NPS to propose this dramatic policy change when numerous federal agencies, states and local communities, and law enforcement are battling to prevent tragedies involving underage drinking and drunk driving,” said Bill Bronrott, former Maryland state legislator and past chair of the House Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. “This proposal should be immediately abandoned.”
Andrew Pucher, president of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) added, “Our member organizations across the U.S. deal every day with the ravages of addiction to alcohol and other drugs. We know that these problems most often start in childhood and adolescence. We do not want to expose our young people to more alcohol marketing, especially in our national parks.”
The letter sent today is the latest salvo in a campaign to oppose the National Park Service’s broader plans under DO21. A petition drive led by CREDO Action, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has garnered 215,000 signatures demanding that the NPS abandon its plans under DO21 to permit corporate sponsorships, naming rights and branding in national parks. The groups analyzed the comments and found that 78 percent of people who filed public comments with the NPS oppose DO21. Commenters said they visit national parks to get away from the noise of marketing and consumerism, and many are concerned that corporate recognition in parks could result in corporate-influenced park policy.
Note: Despite the date at the top of the letter, the letter was sent to the NPS today, Oct. 27. Read the letter (PDF).