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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Stuart Peskett

Several US manufacturers are facing a billion-dollar lawsuit after it was alleged that they deliberately target under-age drinkers. The action was brought by Washington DC resident Ayman Hakki through the law firm Straus & Boies against the following companies: Bacardi, Coors, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Kobrand, Mark Anthony, and Heineken. The claim alleges a long-running, sophisticated and deceptive scheme... to market alcoholic beverages to children and other under-age consumers'. A spokesman for Diageo (UK) said: We are aware that there has been a class action lawsuit filed in Washington DC against a number of beverage alcohol companies, including Diageo, in North America. Clearly, we cannot speak on behalf of any of the other companies mentioned, but we are proud of our marketing code in Diageo. We are a responsible marketer and we take our advertising and promotional efforts to adults over the legal purchase and drinking age. Our business will vigorously defend this case.' And a spokesman for Bacardi in the US told the Financial Times that the lawsuit was without merit'. Jim Minton of The Portman Group, an organisation which promotes sensible drinking and responsible marketing, said: In the UK, there are strict codes that prohibit the marketing of alcoholic drinks to under-18s and we'd expect the support of those companies. Clearly there's concern about under-age drinking. There are things that can and should be done to protect children from alcohol harm.' Allied Domecq has set up an independent advertising review board to improve the standard of alcoholic beverage advertising. Both Allied staff and external experts will meet four times a year to discuss and approve all the forms of Allied's advertising.