Legislation Targeting Underage Drinking!

Legislation Targeting Underage Drinking!
Posted by FoM on May 31, 1999 at 09:27:18 PT
Amendment Would Add Alcohol to Anti-Drug Campaign!
Source: Pioneer Planet
Evidence abounds that beer is more popular with adolescents than marijuana. Yet while the government is spending $195 million this year on its national media campaign to dissuade adolescents from using illicit drugs, not a penny of the appropriated tax dollars goes to warn about the dangers of drinking.
So this month, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., introduced an amendment allowing underage drinking to be included among the advertising campaign's targets. Her effort has not pleased beer wholesalers, some other members of Congress or even the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.``We are neither endorsing nor opposing that proposal for inclusion of alcohol in the media campaign,'' said Robert Weiner, the spokesman for Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of national drug policy.Teen-agers' wider use of alcohol over drugs has been documented in the annual survey of adolescent drug use by researchers at the University of Michigan. In 1998, the survey reported, 74 percent of the high school seniors sampled said they had drunk alcohol in the previous year, and nearly one-third said they had gotten drunk within the last month. In comparison, 38 percent of the seniors said they had smoked marijuana during the previous year.McCaffrey himself has expressed concern about alcohol use by the young. ``It's the biggest drug abuse problem for adolescents, and it's linked to the use of other, illegal drugs,'' he said at a news conference on Feb. 8.But a month later, McCaffrey told a House Appropriations subcommittee that he lacked the authority to spend federal money on anti-alcohol messages in the media campaign, which has now reached 102 cities across the country.The law passed by Congress creating the anti-drug media campaign does not define ``drug.'' But the earlier law creating the White House national drug control office limits its authority to combating controlled substances, thereby excluding alcohol.Roybal-Allard, a subcommittee member, said she was sufficiently upset by McCaffrey's remarks to put forward her amendment, which may be voted on next month. ``They're not getting at the root of the problem, which is underage drinking,'' she said in a telephone interview from Washington.Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., joined Roybal-Allard as a co-sponsor. ``You're finding more young people dying of alcohol-related problems than of drugs,'' Wolf said. He said he wanted to let McCaffrey include underage drinking in the media campaign ``if he thinks it's appropriate.''But the White House drug control office says it does not want to tinker with the campaign's efforts to change youth attitudes about drugs, and possibly dilute the message about drugs.Charles Blanchard, the chief counsel for McCaffrey, said that media outlets had been asked to match the federal funds they get for running the anti-drug ads by supplying additional public service announcements or programming. He estimated that 15 percent of these would address underage drinking.Even if these anti-alcohol messages appear, critics say, they would account for little more than 7 percent of the advertising messages in the campaign.Karolyn Nunnallee, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, accused the White House drug office of ignoring the problem of underage drinking. ``To say that MADD is a little upset over Gen. McCaffrey and the direction he has chosen to take would probably be an understatement,'' Nunnallee said in a telephone interview from her home in Fort Meade, Fla.The American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and other medical, church and community groups support the amendment.Opposition in the House is forming around Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., who promises to kill the amendment when it comes up for a vote.``I think everybody appreciates Ms. Roybal-Allard's concern,'' Northup said. But, she added, ``there are a number of people that believe that drugs are unique and we shouldn't confuse the messages and diminish them.''``The message about drugs is don't ever do it, not at any age and type,'' Northup said. ``That is not the message about alcohol, just like it's not the message of sex.''George Hacker, director of the alcohol policies project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization that is rallying support for the amendment, pointed out that Northup received more than $38,000 in donations from liquor and beer interests between 1997 and 1998.But Northup said that had nothing to do with her opposition to the amendment. ``I've seen this tactic a lot where anybody who's against anything, the first thing people do is pull your campaign contributions,'' she said. ``That way you don't have to have a conversation about the quality of the discussion.''Tamara Tyrrell, the director of public affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers' Association, said the amendment ``is not the proper way to solve the problem'' of underage drinking. Beer wholesalers already spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on alcohol awareness programs, she said.``We feel that the drug czar should be focused on illegal drugs,'' Tyrrell said, ``and alcohol is a legal product and, when consumed responsibly, it has even healthy benefits for certain people.''The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a coalition of advertising and public relations professionals that is coordinating the anti-drug media campaign, has also found itself in the awkward position of opposing the amendment.``You can't simply assume that the anti-drug campaign can be widened to include something as huge as underage drinking,'' said Stephen Dnistrian, the partnership's spokesman.News article submitted by Rainbow!Thank You, Rainbow!
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