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Solutions needed on youth drinking soon, report says

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 10, 2003

WASHINGTON - Alcohol and youth make a dangerous combination, a $53-billion problem that can lead to increased crime and traffic deaths and one the government, parents and industry need to solve, the Institute of Medicine said Tuesday.

The institute, a health policy advisory center affiliated with the National Academies, urged higher federal and state taxes on alcoholic beverages, tougher state drinking laws, better state identification cards and improved policies for detecting and stopping underage drinking parties.

As the report was being issued, the alcoholic beverage industry said it will increasingly target its advertising away from youth.

The Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said their members plan to limit advertising to media with 70 percent adult audiences.

The current standard is a majority adult audience - more than 50 percent - and the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday, in its report, the industry has improved to 99 percent compliance.

Richard Bonnie, a professor at the University of Virginia and chairman of the institute's committee that prepared the analysis, said a major goal needs to be to persuade adults to avoid behavior that encourages underage drinking.

The need is a "comprehensive program involving all sectors of society and a common acceptance of responsibility," he said.

A 2002 study found 72 percent of 12th-graders and 39 percent of eighth-graders reported having consumed alcohol in the previous year.

The National Academies is an independent organization that provides advice to the government under charter by Congress. Among its recommendations:

Increase the frequency of compliance checks to make sure merchants follow minimum-age drinking laws.

Require sellers and servers of alcohol to complete state-approved training.

Have a federal requirement that states achieve specified rates of retailer compliance to qualify for federal money.

Adopt regulations on Internet sales and delivery of alcohol.

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