Key Recommendations to Reduce Underage Drinking
1) Alcohol companies, advertising companies, and commercial media should refrain from marketing practices (including product design, advertising, and promotional techniques) that have substantial underage appeal and should take reasonable precautions in the time, place, and manner of placement and promotion to reduce youthful exposure to other alcohol advertising and marketing activity (Recommendation 7-2, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, 136).
- The industry has the prerogative - indeed, the social obligation - to regulate its own practices and to refrain from marketing products or engaging in promotional activities that have a particular appeal to youngsters, irrespective of whether such practices can be proven to "cause" underage drinking (Reducing Underage Drinking, 135).
- The committee believes that greater self-restraint by the alcohol industry in its marketing practices is an essential component of a sound national strategy for reducing underage drinking (Reducing Underage Drinking, 135).
2) The alcohol industry trade associations, as well as individual companies, should strengthen their advertising codes to preclude placement of commercial messages in venues where a significant proportion of the expected audience is underage, to prohibit the use of commercial messages that have substantial underage appeal, and to establish independent external review boards to investigate complaints and enforce the codes (Recommendation 7-3, Reducing Underage Drinking, 137).
- In the committee's view, immediate implementation of an industry standard of 25 percent for television advertising, as suggested by the FTC, would signify meaningful self-restraint in alcohol marketing to reduce youth exposure. - Over time, the industry should move toward a 15 percent threshold for television advertising (Reducing Underage Drinking, 138).
- According to figures provided to the committee by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, a 15 percent threshold would preclude alcohol advertising on 34.0 percent of programs if the base includes children under 12 and 19.2 percent if it excludes children under 12. Assuming that alcohol advertising dollars would be redeployed to programs with audience compositions below the threshold, a 15 percent threshold (using a base of 12 and older) would reduce youth gross rating points (the industry standard measure of exposure) by 22 percent (Reducing Underage Drinking, 138-9, fn 7).
- Adoption of a 25 percent threshold would reflect a meaningful commitment to alter otherwise lawful magazine advertising practices to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising. As with television advertising, however, the industry should consider eventually moving toward a 15 percent threshold to further reduce the number of youth who are exposed to advertising intended for adults (Reducing Underage Drinking, 140).
3) Congress should appropriate the necessary funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to monitor underage exposure to alcohol advertising on a continuing basis and to report periodically to Congress and the public. The report should include information on the underage percentage of the exposed audience and estimated number of underage viewers of print and broadcasting alcohol advertising in national markets and, for television and radio broadcasting, in a selection of large local or regional markets (Recommendation 7-4, Reducing Underage Drinking, 143).
For more information on alcohol industry marketing activities, please see the Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, Alcohol Advertising and Promotion fact sheet.
1) The federal government should fund and actively support the development of a national media effort, as a major component of an adult-oriented campaign to reduce underage drinking (Recommendation 6-1, Reducing Underage Drinking, 108).
- The goals of the national media campaign would be to instill a broad societal commitment to reduce underage drinking, to increase specific actions by adults that are meant to discourage or inhibit underage drinking, and to decrease adult conduct that tends to facilitate underage drinking (Reducing Underage Drinking, 109).
2) Intensive research and development for a youth-focused national media campaign relating to underage drinking should be initiated. If this work yields promising results, the inclusion of a youth-focused campaign in the strategy should be reconsidered (Recommendation 10-1, Reducing Underage Drinking, 192).
Federal and State Governments
1) A federal interagency coordinating committee on prevention of underage drinking should be established, chaired by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Recommendation 12-1, Reducing Underage Drinking, 235).
- Membership on the coordinating committee should include senior officials from each of the agencies included in the GAO report [of 2001 that reviewed federal funding targeted at underage drinking prevention]. The coordinating committee also should periodically consult with the range of national nongovernmental organizations - including National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), Century Council, National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) - who sponsor initiatives aimed at preventing underage drinking to facilitate a coordinated, research-based approach by all key players (Reducing Underage Drinking, 235).
2) The annual report of the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on underage drinking should include key indicators of underage drinking (Recommendation 12-5, Reducing Underage Drinking, 238).
The key indicators should include:
- (average) age of first use;
- prevalence of (current) use among pertinent age groups;
- intensity (frequency and quantity) of drinking among pertinent age groups; and
- harmful consequences of alcohol use among pertinent age groups (Reducing Underage Drinking, 238).
3) The Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey and the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) should be revised to elicit more precise information on the quantity of alcohol consumed and to ascertain brand preferences of underage drinkers (Recommendation 12-6, Reducing Underage Drinking, 239).
- [T]here are currently no national data on the brands of alcohol consumed by youth. MTF data provides general evidence that youth tend to consume beer more often than other types of alcohol, but the data do not allow more in-depth analysis (Reducing Underage Drinking, 239).
- For alcohol, MTF does not collect information on the preferred brand. In contrast, MTF asks respondents the brand of cigarette usually smoked which revealed that three cigarette brands account for nearly all teen smoking and that one of those brands alone accounts for the majority of the underage tobacco market1 (Reducing Underage Drinking, 239).
4) Congress and state legislatures should raise excise taxes to reduce underage consumption and to raise additional revenues for this purpose. Top priority should be given to raising beer taxes, and excise tax rates for all alcoholic beverages should be indexed to the consumer price index so that they keep pace with inflation without the necessity of further legislative action (Recommendation 12-7, Reducing Underage Drinking, 244).
- Broad interventions (those that would tend to affect overall consumption rather than underage consumption alone) should be included in the strategy only if they could be expected to have a particularly strong effect on the harms associated with underage consumption (Reducing Underage Drinking, 240).
- There are three arguments for higher taxes to combat underage drinking. First, underage drinking imposes particularly high average social costs. Second, raising excise tax rates is a strategy that has strong and well-documented prevention effects on underage drinking. Third, a designated portion of the funds generated by the taxes can be earmarked for preventing and reducing underage drinking (Reducing Underage Drinking, 240).
- "Significant increases in alcoholic beverage excise taxes are among the most effective policies for reducing drinking and driving in all segments of the population, with the largest reductions occurring among teens and young adults"2(Reducing Underage Drinking, 243).
1) Community leaders should assess the underage drinking problem in their communities and consider effective approaches - such as community organizing, coalition building, and the strategic use of the mass media - to reduce drinking among underage youth (Recommendation 11-1, Reducing Underage Drinking, 219).
- In a democratic society, the mobilization of communities in civic life is in and of itself of significant value. Democratic life relies on civic participation and an active, informed citizenry. Community-based groups facilitate the formation of diverse constituencies and support their work with organizational, material, technical, financial, and training assistance. Coalitions also enhance dialogue and cooperation by bringing together stakeholders for strategy development and mobilization on critical issues (Reducing Underage Drinking, 216).
- There is a long and varied history of community mobilization around alcohol problems in the United States, dating back to the nineteenth century. In recent years, community mobilization has been recognized, documented, and evaluated in efforts to reduce alcohol-related problems, including underage drinking. Case studies have documented how communities have organized and used the news media to support changes in alcohol availability, reductions in outdoor advertising of alcohol, increased compliance checks on retailers regarding service and sales of alcohol to minors, keg registration laws, and campaigns to eliminate alcohol sponsorship from ethnic holiday events (Reducing Underage Drinking, 217).
- Community-driven initiatives should be tailored to the specific problems and resources in a community. Different communities will therefore have different priorities based on their particular needs (Reducing Underage Drinking, 218).
2) Public and private funders should support community mobilization to reduce underage drinking. Federal funding for reducing and preventing underage drinking should be available under a national program dedicated to community-level approaches to reducing underage drinking, similar to the Drug Free Communities Act, which supports communities in addressing substance abuse with targeted, evidence-based prevention strategies (Recommendation 11-2, Reducing Underage Drinking, 231).
1) States should strengthen their compliance check programs in retail outlets, using media campaigns and license revocation to increase deterrence (Recommendation 9-2, Reducing Underage Drinking, 169).
2) States and localities should implement enforcement programs to deter adults from purchasing alcohol for minors (Recommendation 9-7, Reducing Underage Drinking, 176).
3) States should facilitate enforcement of zero tolerance laws in order to increase their deterrent effect. (Recommendation 9-9, Reducing Underage Drinking, 179).
4) Local police, working with community leaders, should adopt and announce policies for detecting and terminating underage drinking parties (Recommendation 9-12, Reducing Underage Drinking, 180).
- L.D. Johnston, P.M. O’Malley, and J.G. Bachman, "Cigarette Brands Smoked by American Teens: One Brand Predominates; Three Account for Nearly All of Teen Smoking," (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan News and Information Services, 1999).
- F.J. Chaloupka, H. Saffer, and M. Grossman, "Alcohol-Control Policies and Motor-Vehicle Fatalities," Journal of Legal Studies 22, no. 1 (1993): 161-186.