Martinez Says Drug Policy Office Will Address Alcohol and Tobacco

Article excerpt

In what was seen as a new approach -- in terms of both rhetoric and policy, Bob Martinez, installed as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) earlier this year -- sent a clear signal that alcohol and tobacco issues will no longer be banished to the basement of his agency. Lack of attention to alcohol, in particular, was a sore point among many constituency groups as well as some members of Congress throughout the tenure of his predecessor, William Bennett, the first czar of the "War on Drugs."

"Where young people are concerned, we need to pay more attention to the use of alcohol and tobacco," Martinez told the concluding session of the Second Annual Conference on State and Local Drug Policy conduted by ONDCP in Washington, DC, June 16-19. He said that although data show that use of illicit drug as well as alcohol and tobacco by young people is declining, "it's still too high."

"We can't duck this issue," the former Florida Governor declared. "For young people, alcohol and tobacco are illegal substances, so we will be paing more attention to these problems."

Martinez's remarks followed a widely covered news conference earlier in the month by U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello on HHS studies about the extent of teenage drinking -- seen as a move expanding the federal focus on alcohol (story below).

The new ONDCP Director also made liberal use of the term, "substance abuse," in referring to prevention and education efforts, including training and education programs for physicians and other professionals. The term raises hackles of many alcoholism field purists, but its use has a benign aspect in that in connotes both alcohol and illicit drugs and when applied to federal grant programs means support for alcohol as well as drug services. Moreover, "substance abuse" was not in the lexicon of Bennett whose rhetoric while at ONDCP was confined to illicit drugs. …