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Public wants stiffer policies to deter underage drinking, survey shows

WASHINGTON (BP)–Americans strongly support tougher policies to restrict the drinking of alcohol by people under 21 years of age, a recently released survey reported.
The national survey found 96 percent of the more than 7,000 people interviewed are concerned about teenage drinking. The report said a majority of Americans favor limiting underage drinking by stiffer controls on the sale and advertising of alcohol, as well as restrictions on drinking in public places.
The survey found:
— 61 percent of respondents favor a ban on television advertisements of beer and wine;
— 67 percent endorse a prohibition of hard liquor advertisements on TV;
— 63 percent of respondents support a ban on billboard advertising of alcoholic beverages;
— 67 percent oppose the use of cartoons or youth-oriented music materials on packaging;
— 59 percent favor a ban on the use of sports teams and athletes as symbols in advertising;
— 82 percent believe stores and bars are too lenient in preventing teenagers from purchasing alcohol;
— More than 75 percent support a minimum age of 21 for those who serve alcohol;
— 83 percent favor penalties for adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers;
— 59 percent endorse a ban on the home delivery of alcohol;
— 89 percent endorse restrictions on drinking on city streets, at parks and on college campuses;
— More than 80 percent favor such restrictions at concerts and beaches;
— 77 percent support restrictions at sports stadiums;
— About 75 percent agree with a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drivers who test positive for any alcohol in their blood.
Democrats and Republicans responded alike to nearly all of the questions, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which commissioned the survey.
“Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, citizens across the country clearly want effective regulation of alcohol promotion and sales,” said Alexander Wagenaar, who directed the survey and is director of the alcohol epidemiology program at the University of Minnesota.
A Southern Baptist specialist on alcohol and other drugs said he was “extremely encouraged” at the survey’s results, which were released Oct. 5.
“Such strong public opinion about the disgrace of underage drinking sends a clear message to those who profit from the sale of alcohol,” said Barrett Duke of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The American people are disgusted with the irresponsible way that the alcohol industry has gone about its business of selling its drug.”
The alcohol companies need to “get serious about restricting the availability of this deadly drug,” Duke said. “But if they refuse to take appropriate and adequate measures, it appears that the American people are ready to do it for them. The next step after public opinion is legislation. Let the booze merchants beware. They can control themselves or they can be controlled.”
Availability “is only half of the problem,” Duke said. “We must also seek ways to reduce the demand. When it comes to underage drinking, the most effective means of prevention is for parents to refrain from drinking alcohol.”
The survey was conducted between April and October of 1997.