HHS Reports Highlight Teen Drinking

Article excerpt

U.S. Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello released studies on youth and alcohol containing "shocking" findings about the extent and frequency of teenage alcohol use and raising "serious questions" about the adequacy of labeling on alcoholic beverage containers, enforcement of legal purchase age laws, and awareness among youth of the effects of alcohol.

In what was described as a "first of its kind" study, the HHS Office of Inspector General (IG), at the request of the Surgeon General, conducted a national survey to determine how junior and senior high school students obtain, view and consume alcohol. Additional studies on other aspects of youth and alcohol are being undertaken by the IG, and Novello is calling for creation of an interagency task force to examine the issue of alcohol labeling, particularly those with low alcohol content that may appeal to youth.

The two reports -- "Drinking Habits, Access, Attitudes and Knowledge" and "Do They Know What They Are Drinking?" were compiled under the direction of HHS Inspector General Richard P. Kusserow and targeted 7th through 12th grade students. A national sample of 956 students were interviewed in March and April of this year, drawn from 32 schools in eight randomly selected states: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Findings contained in the "Drinking Habits" report included:

+ Fifty-one percent of junior and senior high school students have had at least one drink within the past year and 8 million students drink weekly.

+ Junior and senior high school students drink 35% of all wine coolers sold in the U.S. and 1.1 billion cans of beer each year.

+ More than 5 million students have engaged in binge drinking; 3 million within the previous month; and 454,000 binge at least once a week.

+ More than 3 million students drink alone, more than 4 million drink when they are upset, and less than 3 million drink because they are bored.

+ Students lack essential knowledge about alcohol and its effects.

+ Nine million students get their information about alcohol from unreliable sources. …