Underage Drinkers' Risk of Brain Damage. (Alcoholism)

USA TODAY, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Underage Drinkers' Risk of Brain Damage. (Alcoholism)


An American Medical Association (AMA) report on the effects of alcohol on the brain dispels the myth that youth are more resilient than adults to adverse effects of drinking. Harmful Consequences of Alcohol Use on the Brains of Children, Adolescents, and College Students is a comprehensive compilation of two decades of scientific research on how alcohol alters the developing brain and causes possibly irreversible damage.

On average, youngsters try alcohol for the first time at the age of 12, and nearly 20% of 12- to 20-year-olds report being binge drinkers (having four or five drinks in a row). Citing the alcohol industry's aggressive marketing to youth as one of this trend's key drivers, the AMA has called on cable stations and television networks to pledge publicly to stop airing alcohol commercials to young viewers. "After NBC announced their plans [In December, 2001] to run hard-liquor ads, the AMA successfully lobbied the network to reverse this ill-advised decision," notes J. Edward Hill, chairman of the organization. "One year later, the alcohol industry is just as aggressive in pursuing underage minds through television, and television is all too willing to comply. This is out of step with public health and public opinion."

A nationwide poll conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that nearly 70% of Americans favor a ban on television liquor ads and 59% support banning beer commercials. The AMA pledge calls on networks and cable TV not to broadcast alcohol ads on programs that air before 10 p.m. or that have 15% or more underage viewers. It also calls on networks and cable TV not to broadcast alcohol commercials depicting mascots, cartoons, or other characters that are targeted to younger viewers. …

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