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Statistics On Teen Drinking

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Posted On: February 25, 2003          Updated On: February 25, 2003
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Teens Said to Drink a 5th of U.S. Alcohol

By LINDSEY TANNER
The Associated Press

Summary:  Underage drinkers account for 19.7 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States each year and represents $22.5 billion in alcohol sales. ``Excessive'' drinking by adults - consumption of more than two drinks daily - amounted to 30.4 percent, or $34.4 billion in alcohol sales. These analyses show that it is not in the alcohol industry's financial interest to voluntarily enact strategies to reduce underage or adult excessive drinking.

CHICAGO (AP) - Underage drinkers account for nearly 20 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States each year, a study says.

Attempting to correct botched statistics they released a year ago, researchers from Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse analyzed three sets of data from 1999 and said underage drinking amounted to 19.7 percent of alcohol consumed that year, or $22.5 billion.

The previous estimate - now discredited - was 25 percent.

``Excessive'' drinking by adults - consumption of more than two drinks daily - amounted to 30.4 percent, or $34.4 billion, the researchers said. Their definition of excessive drinking is similar to the government's.

``These analyses show that it is not in the alcohol industry's financial interest to voluntarily enact strategies to reduce underage or adult excessive drinking,'' the researchers said.

The Columbia center is an advocacy group led by Joseph Califano Jr., a former U.S. secretary of health, education and welfare who has been an outspoken critic of alcohol marketers.

The group issued a report last year saying that young people ages 12 through 20 consume 25 percent of the nation's alcohol, a figure based on the 1998 National Household Survey of Drug Abuse. Critics questioned the statistics, and Califano's group acknowledged it failed to adjust its figures to reflect teens' percentage of the nation's population.

The new analysis appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

It included data from the 1999 version of the household survey, which involved more than 50,000 people aged 12 and older questioned at home. It also included data from two surveys of youngsters 12 and older who were questioned at school.

Representatives of the alcohol industry called the new study as faulty as the old one, and questioned the researchers' definition of excessive adult drinking.

The government agency that conducts the household survey, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has estimated the percentage of alcohol consumed by youngsters at 11.4 percent.

Califano's figure is higher because he based it on different sources, and his research seems sound, said Charles Curie, administrator of the agency.

``I give them credit that they wanted to clarify the figures,'' Curie said.

On the Net:

JAMA: http://jama.ama-assn.org

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: http://casacolumbia.org

Distilled Spirits Council of the United States: http://www.discus.org



02/25/03 16:49 EST

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