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Bill would require disclaimer on Liquor Control Board ads

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A central Pennsylvania lawmaker wants consumers to know their tax dollars pay for the wine and spirits ads they see for products sold in state liquor stores.

State Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Carlisle, circulated a memorandum to his House colleagues on Monday asking them to sign on as cosponsors to his proposal to require LCB advertising to prominently state: “THIS AD PAID FOR BY YOU, THE TAXPAYERS OF PA.”

Bloom said he was inspired to draft the legislation after learning from a Tribune-Review story that the LCB spent $5.8 million last year on advertising.

“I think people get the idea that we have the state-controlled liquor monopoly,” Bloom said in an interview. “But I think it's often overlooked that we're using taxpayer dollars ... to promote the consumption of alcohol, and to me, this is one avenue we can use to help expose to public scrutiny the decisions of how to steward our taxpayer resources in an efficient, appropriate manner.”

LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said the agency tries to spend its advertising dollars wisely.

“As a business, we know that advertising products is an effective way to alert people to new items and special deals and promotions ... and can result in an increase in sales, which in turn increases revenue to the General Fund,” Kriedeman said. “We are always looking to streamline our advertising to be more efficient.”

A story published in the Tribune-Review in October detailed ad spending that the LCB listed in its first annual report in years, which explained how departments operate and provided sales figures, marketing efforts, regulatory issues, employee demographics and financial statements.

The report showed the LCB bought 20,594 commercials on 45 radio stations as well as 6,181 commercials on 55 TV stations and ran print ads in 12 newspapers statewide. Ads also appeared on billboard and social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

“You're literally seeing taxpayer dollars being used to buy billboards and TV commercials promoting drinking liquor while at the same time, the same state agency is advertising to discourage people from consuming liquor,” Bloom said.

The LCB awarded more than $1 million in alcohol-education grants last year to colleges and universities, schools, communities groups and law enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce underage and dangerous drinking.

Money spent on advertising and alcohol education is funded by sales revenue from the state's 600 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, Kriedeman said.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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