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Underage drinking curb reintroduced in Congress

WASHINGTON (BP)–Legislation designed to prevent underage drinking has been reintroduced in Congress.

The Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act would authorize a coordinated attempt to reduce alcohol consumption by minors. The effort would include cooperation among federal agencies, increased prevention activities in states and communities, a public service media campaign and more research.

“Too many American kids are drinking regularly, and they are drinking in quantities that can be of great, long-term harm,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, R.-Ohio, in a floor statement while introducing the bill Feb. 16. “As a nation, we clearly haven’t done enough to address this problem. We haven’t done enough to acknowledge how prevalent and widespread teenage drinking is in this country. We haven’t done enough to let parents know that they, too, are a part of this problem and can be a part of the solution.”

DeWine is chief sponsor of the Senate bill, S. 408. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D.-Calif, is lead sponsor of the House of Representatives version, H.R. 864. DeWine and Roybal-Allard sponsored similar legislation in the last Congress.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has endorsed the legislation.

The problem and its effects are illustrated in statistics provided by the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

— Underage people drink 19.7 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

— The binge drinking rate for underage people grew by 56 percent from 1993 to 2001. Binge drinking is defined as consuming at least five drinks in a sitting during the previous month.

— Between 2002 and 2003, 56.7 percent of high school seniors said they drank beer and 58.6 percent of 12th-graders reported drinking liquor.

— The number of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who drank alcohol increased from 34 percent in 2001-02 to 37 percent in 2002-03.

— Alcohol is an important factor in the top four cases of death among 10- to 24-year-olds: Automobile crashes; accidental injuries; murder; and suicide.

The STOP legislation would: (1) Appropriate $2 million yearly for a committee to coordinate efforts among federal agencies to prevent underage drinking and to report to Congress annually; (2) provide $1 million a year for a media campaign targeting adults; (3) fund at $10 million new programs in states and communities, as well as at colleges, and (4) grant $6 million for increased research.

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