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The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that there are five different pending class action suits that have been filed in various states during the last 14 months, seeking to hold both Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch responsible for underage drinking caused by the aggressive marketing of such products to teenagers.

“The cases have drawn comparisons to the legal assault on cigarette makers, which have also been accused of marketing to kids,” the LAT writes, noting that “the suits accuse (the brewers) of unleashing a flood of provocative, even raunchy, ads to exploit the raging hormones of adolescents. They say teens are disproportionately exposed to such ads through magazines and TV shows with large youth audiences.”

The companies, however, say that they do not encourage illegal drinking, that they voluntarily restrict their ads to media in which at least 70 percent of the audience is 21 or older, and that they have spent millions of dollars to promote responsible drinking and to train retailers to spot fake identification cards.
KC's View:
We have a son who is a college student. He is 18. And we know that he’s consumed beer while at school.

And while our kids think we are ancient, we’re not so old that we don’t remember that we did a fair amount of drinking back when we were in school. We try to keep that in mind when we talk to our son, understanding that college is a place and time for testing boundaries, even legal ones. Still, it is important that we communicate to our son the fact that he is breaking the law, that there are consequences for such actions, and that he must be extremely careful about being in a car driven by someone under the influence.

We tell you all this for a reason.

This is a conversation that we are having with our son, and these are decisions that he must make as a young adult. And we must hope that as parents we have taught him well enough that he makes the right decisions, decisions not influenced by this commercial or that advertisement.

So we would not participate in such a lawsuit, even if our lives had been touched by such a tragedy. But that said, we continue to believe that the decision about culpability must be made by a jury, and we will watch these proceedings with interest.

And if we were a beer company, we might be taking another look at our advertising, and might take a somewhat more measured approach to how we promote our products.

Sometimes you can be responsible without being culpable.