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Thu, Feb 03, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Legislators want `sober up quick' ads to be axed

HEALTH AND SAFETY Opposition lawmakers have joined forces with central government officials in an attack on TV commercials for `sober up' medications currently being shown on cable television

By Erin Prelypchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of legislators has demanded that TV commercials promoting products that "instantly lower blood alcohol levels" should be pulled from the airwaves because they are both misleading to the public and encourage drunk driving.

DPP legislators Yu Jan-daw (余政道), Wang Hsueh-feng (王雪峰), Chen Ching-jun (陳景峻) and Tang Pi-O (唐碧娥) yesterday screened for journalists a series of "infomercial"-style TV commercials for the product No More Booze, which began being marketed last month.

The commercials, aired on cable TV, show two young men administering breath-alcohol tests to drinkers at a night market.

They are shown being tested before consuming the product, and then tested again afterwards -- the results of which show enormously reduced blood alcohol levels.

"These commercials look like they're objective and scientific. But we know from the city government's investigations that these products don't work at all," Wang said.

The Taipei City Government's Bureau of Health, in conjunction with city police, released the results of its investigations into 12 such products on Monday. They were found to contain vitamins, minerals and in some cases Chinese herbs -- but no elements which help the body break down alcohol faster.

"We want these companies to pull their ads. They are totally inappropriate," Yu said.

"With commercials for these products playing 24 hours a day, people are going to get the idea that it's OK to drink and drive," he said.

The legislators also complained that the product does not clearly state on its packaging whether it is a food or a medicine.

They called on the Department of Health, the Fair Trade Commission and the Government Information Office to enforce existing regulations against false advertising, clarify for the public what these products are and investigate their prices.

Prices for 50ml to 70ml bottles range from NT$200 to NT$300.

The director of the food sanitation bureau at the Department of Health, Chen Shu-kung (陳樹功), denounced the products yesterday, saying that they made "unrealistic claims" and misled the public as to their real effects.

Any decision about whether to restrict advertisements for the products should be made by the GIO, he said.

Pharmaceutical affairs officials at the department declined to answer any questions about the product yesterday, instead referring all inquiries to the food bureau.

Chang Chung-jen (張崇仁), director of the GIO's television broadcasting department, said his department was currently investigating the commercials but had not yet taken any action.

But the GIO's position on the commercials is quite clear, he said.

"If the Department of Health considers these products beverages and they are being advertised as having medicinal effects, then this is false advertising -- the commercials are violating the Fair Trade Law and are illegal," Chang said.

Representatives from Con Pack International, the makers of No More Booze, continued to deny yesterday that their product or its advertising made any false claims.

"There isn't a company on Earth that would suggest you drink and drive," said a customer service representative surnamed Lin, who refused to give her full name.

"Our product will lower your blood alcohol level, but our commercials don't suggest that it'll bring you below the legal limit [for driving]. Maybe people have misunderstood our ads," she said.

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