Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association‘s Feb. 26 issue that underage drinking amounted to 19.7 percent of alcohol consumed, or $22.5 billion.

The report, “Alcohol Consumption and Expenditures for Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking,” makes clear that “alcohol is a premier drug of abuse in America,” Joseph A. Califano Jr., CASA president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, said in a release on the CASA Web site.

“Sales to children, underage drinkers, and alcohol abusers are a critical component of the alcohol industry’s profits,” Califano continued.

Teen drinking, CASA reported in the release, “hikes the chances of alcoholism later in life.” And adult excessive drinking is linked to serious health problems like liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers, as well as criminal behavior like assault, rape and child abuse.

The study isn’t being received well by alcohol industry representatives.
“Representatives of the alcohol industry called the new study as faulty as the [1999] one, and questioned the researchers’ definition of excessive adult drinking,” reported.

Included in the CASA study were a few demands for the alcohol industry:

  • Endow an independent foundation with no ties to the alcohol industry to work exclusively to curb underage drinking and adult excessive drinking.
  • Include in its advertising and product labels clear warnings of the dangers of underage drinking and adult excessive drinking, and the definition of moderate drinking as defined by nutritional guidelines of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture: no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
  • Include in product labels the nutritional health profile of the contents, including caloric content.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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