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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
actual intentions underlying these programs. However, in the absence of documented evidence of effectiveness from independent evaluation, skepticism about the value of industry-sponsored programs is likely to continue. Based on our own review of the materials submitted by industry representatives, the alcohol prevention literature, and the other materials and testimony submitted to the committee, we believe that industry efforts to prevent and reduce underage drinking, however sincere, should be redirected and strengthened.
Recommendation 7-1: All segments of the alcohol industry that profit from underage drinking, inadvertently or otherwise, should join with other private and public partners to establish and fund an independent nonprofit foundation with the sole mission of reducing and preventing underage drinking.
Other public health leaders have recently urged the alcohol industry to endow an independent foundation to curb excessive drinking by adults as well as underage drinking (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2003). However, the committee believes that—at the outset, at least—the mission should be strictly limited to the prevention of underage drinking. If the mission is not limited to underage drinking, which is illegal, the committee is doubtful that agreement could be reached about the foundation’s goals and the scope of its activities. While a very strong social consensus supports strong measures to reduce underage drinking, such a consensus does not yet exist about what it means to reduce “excessive” or otherwise “irresponsible” drinking or about the measures that should be taken to achieve this goal.
The committee believes that a foundation that is focused exclusively on preventing and reducing underage drinking—through activities, programs, and methods that can be carefully defined and specified in the founding charter—would provide an opportunity for the alcohol industry, interested business associations, advocacy organizations, and government to enter into a social contract grounded in, and manifesting, recognition of collective responsibility.4 Primary funding for such a foundation would ideally be
The agreement envisioned by the committee would differ substantially from the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), executed by major tobacco manufacturers and the state attorneys general to settle the Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry. The MSA established the American Legacy Foundation, charging it with specific functions relating to reducing youth smoking, and obligated the industry to fund the Foundation at least for a period of years. The Legacy Foundation grew out of a lawsuit and is currently in litigation over one tobacco company’s claim that Legacy violated its obligation under the MSA to avoid “vilifying” the industry. The committee envisions a collaborative nonadversarial relationship among the parties to the agreement establishing a foundation to prevent underage drinking.