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Chill out over the "Fan Cans"

By Scott Tibbs, September 4, 2009

Indiana University (along with several other schools) is not happy about the "fan can" promotion by Anheuser-Busch, with beer cans matching school colors in various college towns. IU does not like the cans connecting the school to alcohol consumption, so they have asked Anheuser-Busch to stop the promotion. Absent trademark infringement, there is nothing IU can do about it. After all, no one owns the colors red and white. The Herald-Times went further in an alarmed editorial, connecting the promotion to binge drinking and alcohol-related sexual assaults.

Please. Not one more person is going to binge drink because Budweiser is making a red-and-white can. People who are inclined to binge drink are going to do so regardless of the color of the can. What the promotion might do is push someone to buy Bud Light instead of Miller Light, but a different color is not going to encourage bad behavior that would not already be taking place. Sounding the alarm over binge drinking and sexual assault are little more than prohibitionist fear-mongering.

The comparison to cigarette promotions is further needless fear-mongering. When used responsibly, alcohol does not have the negative health effects that smoking does. In the short term, smoking irritates the nose, throat and eyes. In the long term, smoking has been shown to cause cancer. If the Herald-Times wants to argue that that the colors dishonestly implies endorsement, that is fine. Equating a red and white beer can to cigarette promotions undermines the argument because readers cease taking the editorial seriously when this needless hyperbole is used.

Like it or not, college students drink. Many college students drink before they are permitted by law to do so. Some drink irresponsibly, some make the foolish decision to drive afterward, and some drink to excess. What needs to be done is drop the silly alarmist rhetoric and focus on responsible drinking. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that nobody is going to touch that awful brew does not solve anything.