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About the Bill: ‘‘Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act’’, or the ‘‘STOP Underage Drinking Act’’. 

BACKGROUND

On Wednesday, July 21, Senators DeWine (R-OH) and Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Wolf (R-VA), Wamp (R-TN), DeLauro (D-CT), and Osborne (R-NE) introduced the bi-partisan, bi-cameral “Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act,” or “STOP Underage Drinking Act” (H.R. 4888 in the House and S. 2718 in the Senate). Inspired by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine’s September 2003 recommendations to Congress for a national strategy to prevent and reduce underage drinking (“Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility”), the bill represents a long-overdue acknowledgement of the need to begin addressing the many harms related to underage drinking.

WHAT THE “STOP UNDERAGE DRINKING ACT” DOES

The companion House and Senate bills include four areas of policy development.

1) Improved Federal Coordination and Leadership on Underage Drinking Prevention:

The bill provides $2 million for a committee of federal agencies focused on underage drinking. Chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the committee is charged with guiding policy and program development across the federal government with respect to underage drinking. The committee will also produce two reports – an annual report to Congress on progress at the federal level and a report card to evaluate efforts at the state level. The annual report to Congress will summarize:

a. All programs and policies of federal agencies designed to prevent underage drinking.
b. The extent of progress in reducing underage drinking nationally.
c. Patterns and consequences of underage drinking.
d. Measures of the availability of alcohol to underage populations and of the exposure of this population to messages regarding alcohol in advertising and entertainment media.
e. Findings derived from the additional research on underage drinking called for by the bill, such as brand preferences of underage drinkers and their exposure to alcohol advertising.
f. Evidence-based best practices to both prevent underage drinking and provide treatment services to those youth who need them.
g. Such other information regarding underage drinking as the Secretary deems appropriate.

The annual “report card” will assess the performance of each state in enacting and enforcing laws, regulations, and programs to prevent and reduce underage drinking. The inter-agency committee, in consultation with public health, consumer, and alcoholic beverage industry groups, will create measures to evaluate state progress in adopting and implementing programs that can reduce underage drinking (such as strict enforcement of minimum drinking age laws, compliance checks of alcohol retail outlets, levels of investment of State funds in underage drinking prevention and other programs).

2) Beginnings of a National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking:

The bill provides for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to continue funding and overseeing the production, broadcasting, and evaluation of the Ad Council’s adult-oriented public service media campaign. The bill provides $1 million for each of the fiscal years 2005 and 2006. It also requires the Secretary to provide an annual report to Congress detailing the progress and effectiveness of the campaign as well as the need for and likely effectiveness of an expanded adult-oriented media campaign, and the feasibility and likely effectiveness of a national youth-focused media campaign to combat underage drinking.

3) Funding for Community and Campus Efforts to Prevent Underage Drinking:

The bill provides $5 million in FY 2005 for the award of “enhancement grants” of up to $50,000 for organizations to design, test, evaluate, and disseminate strategies to maximize the effectiveness of community-wide approaches to underage drinking. The bill further provides $5 million in FY 2005 for the Secretary of Education to award grants to enable eligible entities to reduce the rate of underage alcohol use, binge drinking, and drug use among college and university students.

4) Additional Research and Data Collection on Underage Drinking:

The act provides $6 million to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect data on, and conduct or support research on, underage drinking with respect to the following:

a. The short and long-range impact of alcohol use and abuse upon adolescent brain development.
b. Community-based strategies to prevent underage drinking.
c. Improved knowledge of the scope of the underage drinking problem and progress in preventing
and treating underage drinking.
d. More precise information than is currently collected on the type and quantity of alcoholic
beverages consumed by underage drinkers as well as information on brand preferences of these drinkers and their exposure to alcohol advertising.

WHY IT’S NEEDED

Alcohol is the leading drug problem among young people in the United States and underage drinking contributes to the deaths of 6.5 times more young people than all illicit drugs combined. The public health, safety, consumer protection, education, child and family welfare, and faith communities have fought for years to elevate underage drinking on the national public policy agenda. This bill represents an important first step in developing an effective national response to the devastating public health and safety problem of underage drinking.

 

CSPI's Press Release on the STOP Act: http://www.cspinet.org/new/200407212.html

Full text of the Bill (29 pages, pdf)

 

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