WASHINGTON, DC: "Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America's youth," states acting US surgeon-general Dr Kenneth Moritsugu in a report published Wednesday. It urges alcohol marketers to pull their ads from collegiate newspapers, ease-back on outdoor ad campaigns and cease sponsorship of college events.
The report also warns that too many people view teen drinking as a "rite of passage", although new research indicates it could have potentially serious long-term effects.
Explains Moritsugu: "I have issued this [report] to focus national attention on the problem, and on disturbing new research which indicates that the developing adolescent brain may be particularly susceptible to long-term negative consequences from alcohol use."
Despite concern that a greater number of teens drink alcohol than smoke tobacco or use drugs, the acting surgeon-general eschews legislation.
Instead, he exhorts all concerned - beer and liquor advertisers, the media, colleges and universities - to coordinate their efforts to reduce teenage alcohol consumption.
Alcohol marketers have a "public responsibility" to ensure that their campaigns "do not disproportionately expose youth to messages about alcohol". Also that websites and web ads "do not especially attract or appeal to adolescents".
The entertainment and media industries also have a role to play, the report emphasizes. TV programs and video games must not "glamorize underage alcohol use [and avoid] gratuitous portrayals of alcohol abuse in films and TV shows in which children are a major audience".
Reaction to the report by commercially interested parties came straight from the script, with beer and liquor trade associations claiming that many of the practices cited by the surgeon-general are already barred or severely restricted by their voluntary codes.
They also implied that the report's exhortations were unnecessary as federal statistics show teen alcoholism to be dropping.
Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff