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MADD, Public Health Coalition Urge Congress to 'Just Say No' to Alcohol Industry Efforts to Exclude Alcohol from Massive Youth Anti-Drug Ad Campaign.

Will Congress Cave in to Pressure from National Beer Wholesalers Association

And Partnership for a Drug-Free America By Allowing Billion-Dollar Youth

Anti-Drug Campaign to Ignore No. 1 Drug of Choice

Among Young People -- Alcohol??

WASHINGTON, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and a broad-based public health coalition today urged the Congress to "just say no" to efforts by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and friends of the alcohol industry in Congress, who are fighting to exclude alcohol -- the No. 1 drug of choice among young people -- from the most comprehensive and expensive taxpayer- funded, youth anti-drug advertising campaign in U.S. history.

The ONDCP, under the direction of General McCaffrey, is conducting a federally-funded, five-year, billion-dollar primetime advertising campaign, in coordination with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, to urge the youth of America not to use drugs. MADD and other health and safety advocates believe that this effort is "tragically flawed" in that not one penny of the taxpayer money is used to combat underage use and abuse of alcohol.

Earlier this year, when General McCaffrey appeared before the House Appropriations Committee, he was asked to include alcohol in the paid portion of this campaign. He said he would not do so, because the legislation creating the campaign and authorizing his office was unclear as to whether he could address alcohol. He maintained that he was only authorized to address illicit drugs. However, since the passage of the 21 uniform minimum drinking age in 1984, it has been illegal for those under the age of 21 to purchase or publicly possess alcohol.

"Alcohol is an illicit drug for Americans under the legal minimum drinking age of 21," said Karolyn Nunnallee, National President of MADD. "Failure of this nation's drug policy to address alcohol and underage drinking will turn this so-called war on drugs into another Vietnam."

MADD and a broadly based coalition of more than 76 organizations support including underage drinking prevention in ONDCP's "Anti-Drug Youth Media Campaign." The coalition includes the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Crime Prevention Council.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on related legislation as early as this week that would open up the five-year, billion-dollar media campaign to messages aimed at preventing underage drinking.

"Alcohol kills six times more young people in our country than all other illicit drugs combined, and it is the primary gateway drug for other illicit drug use," Nunnallee added. "Including alcohol and underage drinking messages in this most massive youth anti-drug media campaign will enhance the overall effectiveness of the program, not dilute it."

U.S. Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) are sponsoring an amendment before the House Appropriations Committee that removes all impediments cited by ONDCP to include underage drinking prevention messages in the primetime ad campaign.

Appropriations Committee member Rep. Anne Northrup (R-KY), the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America are leading the effort to kill the Roybal-Allard/Wolf amendment.

"The National Beer Wholesalers Association can do something MADD by law cannot: lavish campaign contributions on Members of Congress," said Nunnallee. "The debate over this legislation is yet another sad example of 'money talks,' and it's about time the taxpayers who are paying for this billion-dollar ad campaign take back their government." The National Beer Wholesalers Association fought proposed lifesaving legislation last year to lower the drunk driving limit nationwide to .08 percent.

A recent Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study showed that student binge drinking is the single most serious public health problem confronting American youth. Half of all college students surveyed who drank alcohol were binge drinkers. Of the students who drank, 20 percent drank on 10 or more occasions in the past month and 36 percent admitted they drove after drinking. A 1996 survey by the American Medical Association found that 33 percent of 19- and 20-year-olds consume at least four alcoholic beverages on an average night, and 20 percent have six or more drinks.

"We are outraged by the efforts of the alcoholic-beverage industry, particularly the beer wholesalers, to discourage the inclusion of anti-alcohol messages in the federal government's largest and most ambitious non-military advertising campaign to date," said George Hacker, Director of Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "For goodness sake, these are our children."

According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, in 1994 underage drinking killed 6,350 youth ages 12-20, while illicit drug use killed 980. (The most recent year when such figures are available.)

"It is very sad that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America appears interested in only a partial drug-free America for youth," Nunnallee said. "The partnership is refusing to open its eyes to the brutal truth that the earlier the onset of alcohol use, the greater the increased risk of other illicit drug use. We can only surmise that representatives of the Partnership from the advertising and media industries are more concerned about keeping their major alcohol industry clients happy than keeping our kids safe, healthy and alive."

Brendan Brogan, 18, is the Youth Member of MADD's National Board who became active in the fight against underage drinking after surviving a drinking binge at age 14 that left him temporarily comatose. "It is not a surprise that young people view alcohol as a so-called safe alternative to illicit drugs when they are waking up to ads that dazzle and delight by equating the popping of a cold one with beauty, sex appeal, acceptance, success and self esteem," Brogan said. "This irresponsible alcohol marketing blatantly targeting youth comes from the same people in the beer industry that are now trying to set the drug control policy in our country."

Last month, MADD contacted the White House to ask their position on this issue. MADD was informed that President Clinton had "no position." On May 26, MADD President Nunnallee sent a letter to the President and the Vice President, and to date there has been no response from the White House.

Also addressing today's news conference was Carl Soderstrom, M.D., Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Dr. Soderstrom spoke of the widespread prevalence of alcohol in death and injury cases of young Americans resulting from blunt force and penetrating trauma.
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 7, 1999
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