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A sobering image of spring break

A new AMA newspaper ad warns college revelers that if they party too hard they could end up in a hospital instead of on the beach.

By Associated Press
Published March 9, 2004

PANAMA CITY BEACH - In a play on a well-known beer slogan, an American Medical Association newspaper advertisement pictures an emergency room and warns spring break revelers, "This bed's for you."

The ad, running through March 25 in newspapers at eight college campuses nationally, is part of an AMA campaign to discourage high-risk drinking during spring break.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and officials in two popular Florida spring break destinations, Panama City Beach and Daytona Beach, also are supporting public awareness campaigns against excessive and underage drinking, and officials are promising stricter law enforcement.

"The spring break issues that we have in Daytona and Panama City have gotten out of proportion and out of hand over a long time," Andy Hindman, an AMA campaign leader and executive director of MADD's Florida chapter, said Monday. "This is going to be a year when, at least at this point, everybody is on the same page."

A few colleges have begun their spring breaks, but most will take them from mid March through mid April.

The AMA ad says statistics show that half of male and 40 percent of female students drink until they vomit or pass out. It urges them to avoid ending their vacations in a hospital because of car crashes, balcony falls, assaults and rapes.

It urges students to avoid places that promise free beer, all-you-can drink parties, "booze cruises" and endless happy hours.

Two years ago, the AMA singled out the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau for criticism over a 12-page spring break insert distributed with college newspapers. The insert included an ad offering "all the beer you can handle" for $5.

The bureau now bars ads promoting drinking bargains and has taken other steps. Daytona Beach officials also are "trying to clean up their act," Hindman said.

The Panama City Beach agency is spending $3,000 on six billboards and 200 posters with the message "Spring Break. Not a break from common sense. Celebrate Safely."

"Certainly, if just one college student looks at it and it has an impact, then that does the job for us," said Bob Warren, the bureau's executive director.

Panama City Beach is the nation's leading spring break destination, annually attracting 400,000 or more visitors.

They will be greeted with a heavy law enforcement presence, said police Maj. David Humphreys. His agency is getting help from Panama City police, Bay County sheriff's deputies and about 50 auxiliary officers.

MADD's plans include airplane banner ads, news conferences, media interviews and billboards in Panama City Beach, Daytona Beach and Fort Myers, Hindman said.

The AMA ad is running in campus papers at Florida State, Northwestern and Louisiana State universities, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Universities of Delaware, Vermont, Iowa and Wisconsin.

[Last modified March 9, 2004, 01:35:32]

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