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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
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.
Such a campaign would be undertaken in the context of a comprehensive, society-wide effort to address underage drinking through the other mechanisms described in this volume. Those efforts could and should be undertaken while the media campaign is being developed. In this chapter we describe the underlying logic for the approach, what the campaign would look like, evidence concerning its promise, and its possible strengths and weaknesses. We conclude by outlining the developmental approach we propose. We believe that the development of an adult-oriented campaign warrants a substantial investment if its promise of effectiveness is borne out during the developmental period.
ADULT ATTITUDES AND KNOWLEDGE ABOUT UNDERAGE DRINKING
Many groups concerned with underage drinking claim that societal acceptance of, or at least ambivalence toward such drinking, reflected both in expressed attitudes and in the actions of many adults in facilitating underage drinking, is a substantial cause for such drinking (see National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA], 2002). Yet, when asked, the great majority of adults express concern about underage drinking. For example 84 percent of respondents to the 2001 survey undertaken by CASA said that underage drinking was either “a big problem” or “somewhat of a problem” in their community, and 92 percent said they were personally “somewhat” or “very much concerned” with underage alcohol use. That survey also shows widespread support for many public policy actions, with 83 percent favoring regulation of location of alcohol outlets near school, and 78 percent, 71 percent, and 69 percent supporting undercover compliance checks, “cops in shops” checks, and “shoulder tap” checks, respectively, to reduce alcohol outlet sales to underage youth.
Despite the high level of expressed adult concern, most underage drinking requires involvement by some adults—in selling the alcohol to youth, in purchasing it on behalf of youth, or in permitting minors to have parties in their homes where alcohol is served. Obviously, many adults are not taking proper precautions to restrict underage drinking, and often facilitate it in violation of the law. And even if adults do not supply alcohol to minors directly, underage drinking is tacitly supported by many adults—such as parents who view youth drinking as an inevitable part of adolescence and