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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
reduce opportunities for youth drinking. In Chapter 7 we discuss how the alcoholic beverage industry can become a partner in the overall effort by helping to establish and fund an independent nonprofit organization charged with reducing underage drinking and by exercising greater self-restraint in advertising and promotional activity. Our messages to the alcohol industry (and other industries that benefit from a large alcohol market) are clear: Your efforts to satisfy and expand the legitimate adult market for alcohol inevitably spill over to a large underage market. Even if you do not intend to stimulate or satisfy underage demand, you derive financial benefits from it. As a society, we cannot have a substantial impact on underage drinking without your active engagement in this effort. Chapter 8 issues a similar challenge to the entertainment media, urging more attentive self-regulation to reduce exposure of children and adolescents to lyrics and images that portray drinking in an attractive way. The committee believes that market incentives can be used to reward companies, including entertainment media, who take meaningful steps to help reduce underage drinking, and to punish companies that do not. Chapter 9 explores ways to reduce youth access to alcohol through both commercial and noncommercial channels.
Chapter 10 explains why the committee does not recommend a youth-oriented national media campaign at this time, preferring instead a cautious program of research and development. It also addresses educational efforts in schools, colleges, and other settings designed to persuade young people to choose not to drink and to reduce alcohol problems. The chapter also briefly discusses programs for assisting youths with alcohol problems. Chapter 11 reviews the potential advantages of mobilizing communities to implement locally specific efforts to reduce underage drinking.
Chapter 12 identifies several ways in which the federal and state governments can help implement the proposed strategy, including through increases in excise taxes. Regulatory action by the government is not at the center of the committee’s proposed strategy. The major priority, in the committee’s view, is to galvanize the necessary societal commitment to prevent and reduce underage drinking. Thus, the committee focuses its attention on community action, business responsibility, public-private partnerships, and all the other institutional expressions of a genuine social movement. In this context, government has a supportive, but nonetheless indispensable, role—to provide funding (possibly through increased excise taxes on alcohol) and technical support to strengthen and enforce access restrictions, to keep regulatory pressure on the alcohol industry to act responsibly, and to monitor the effectiveness of the overall strategy.