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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
In addition to activities similar to those described above, the Century Council (2001) has produced resource materials (e.g., Promising Practices: Campus Alcohol Strategies) aimed at helping colleges develop effective programs to reduce alcohol abuse. They also have developed and distributed Alcohol 101, a college-level interactive program on alcohol-related problems that is distributed to hundreds of campuses nationwide and Cops in Shops, a program aimed at deterring underage purchases.
Overall, the alcohol industry has apparently invested significant resources in a diverse range of efforts aimed at reducing underage drinking and its associated harms, including media messages, educational programs, and enforcement activities. Some industry members have also entered into partnerships with specific colleges and universities to reduce drinking problems on those campuses, often grounded in social norms marketing approaches (see Chapter 10).
The committee is aware of only one industry-sponsored education program that has been independently evaluated—Alcohol 101. The evaluation (Anderson and Cohen, 2001) used a naturalistic design with purposeful sampling, including attention to regional sampling, and included colleges and universities believed to have done a good job implementing the program. Anderson and Cohen reported that the program is viewed “with a high degree of positive regard” (2001, p. 22), with some campus personnel suggesting modest changes on their campuses, and others reporting positive student engagement. Anderson and Cohen reported, with the most robust implementations, measurable gains in relevant knowledge, willingness to act in emergencies, and intentions to modify drinking to reduce alcohol problems. Nonetheless, they suggested additional in-depth analysis of the campus-based findings involving additional institutions and types of settings and further statistical analyses of existing data.
A recent study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (2003) studied “responsibility advertising” by the alcohol industry on television in 2001 and reported that industry spent $23.2 million to air 2,379 responsibility messages (discouraging underage drinking and drunk driving); they contrasted these with $811.2 million on 208,909 product advertisements. With regard to underage drinking in particular, they report that there were 179 product ads for every ad that referred to the legal drinking age. All of the legal-drinking age messages were broadcast by only two alcohol companies—Anheuser Busch ($12.2 million) and Coors ($3.6 million).
Many public health experts in the alcohol prevention field are highly skeptical about the value of the industry’s underage drinking programs and other prevention activities and about the industry’s collective motivation for sponsoring them. The criticism most frequently heard is that the main effect of these programs may be to promote brand identification, if not alcohol use itself. The committee is in no position to assess or ascertain the