Losing Our Youth to the Alcohol Companies
-- Judy Stoefen

The American Medical Association estimates that 100,000 people a year die from alcohol related deaths in the United States, Over 40,000 are under the age of 21.

Alcohol is implicated in the three leading causes of teen death: car wrecks, un-intentional injuries like falls and drowning, and suicides and homicides. Every 30 minutes, someone dies in an alcohol-related car crash. And every 30 seconds, someone is injured, sometimes causing disabilities, permanent disfigurement and paralysis. Alcohol abuse kills 6.5 times more kids than all drugs combined. Alcohol is also a major factor in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. Alcohol contributes to violent and non-violent crimes, rapes, and child abuse.

Alcohol increases the risk of stroke among young drinkers. Alcohol causes significant neurological damage resulting in impaired learning and memory and damaging parts of the brain. The damage is twice as much for adolescents whose brains and bodies are still developing. Alcohol can contribute to liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. And over 5,000 people, including children, die every year from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol is addicting. The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years old for boys and 13 for girls. Two-thirds of eighth graders and 9 out of 10 twelfth graders have used alcohol. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports a 33% increase of children who begin drinking in eighth grade or earlier. Other studies show that more than 43% of teenagers who begin drinking before age 15 become alcoholics. When young people wait to have their first drink until they are 21, the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse drops dramatically.

Underage drinking accounts for 22.5 million sales for the alcohol industry. The economic reality of the alcohol industry is that it must maintain or increase consumption if it is to insure future profits. This means that the industry must continually attract new drinkers as current drinkers quit or die. Drinking during the teen years hikes the chances of alcoholism and alcohol abuse and makes them a consumer for life.

A study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth shows that the alcohol industry targets and advertises its products to underage youth on the TV, radio, and magazines. By the time a child reaches 18 years old, they have seen over 100,000 beer commercials on TV. Alcohol companies portray alcohol to young people as a beverage and a normal part of life. They portray it as a way of having fun, socializing, being cool, gaining peer acceptance, and attracting the opposite sex. Many of the ads portray excessive drinking. The health risks are clearly documented yet alcohol companies make no mention of this in their advertising or promotions. Every other product on the market has to inform us of health risks. Why not the alcohol companies?

A USA Today survey found teens say alcohol advertising has a greater influence on their desire to drink in general. A study of 12-year-olds found children who were more aware of beer advertising held more favorable views on drinking and expressed an intention to drink more often than did children who were less exposed to alcohol advertising. Alcohol ads are one of the most powerful influences on youth who are six times more susceptible to advertising than adults.

The American Medical Association recommends more education about the harmful effects of alcohol. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University recommends alcohol companies include in its advertising and product labels clear warnings of the dangers of underage drinking and adult excessive drinking and the definition of moderate drinking defined by Nutritional Guidelines of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture-no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

Lisa grew up with predatory marketing when Budweiser used cute animals such as the Spuds MacKenzie dog and the "talking frogs and lizards". They made alcohol seem harmless and fun. Now alcohol companies are producing new campaigns and new products to appeal to young people.

Alcohol companies preach to "drink responsibly". But when are they going to be responsible! It is the alcohol companies' responsibility to tell our children and us the facts: the effects and possible side effects and consequences of consuming their product.

Please join us in getting Congress to pass Lisa's Laws. Please sign our petition. Thank You!

Information and statistics are from: the American Medical Association, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, the American Academy of Pediatrics