National enforcement program galvanizes action at the state and local levels to reduce teen drinking

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A national evaluation of a comprehensive federally sponsored initiative shows that the program has galvanized action at the state and local levels to reduce underage drinking, according to Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The evaluation is cited in today's National Academy of Sciences report: "Underage Drinking, a Collective Responsibility," which was released in Washington.

Wolfson, who is heading the national evaluation, said as a result of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program, "many more state agencies are involved, and underage drinking prevention is higher on their agendas."

He said the increased activity has three key focuses: enforcement efforts, public education about underage drinking and increased coordination among local and state agencies.

Wolfson said state agencies are much more involved in promoting enforcement efforts than before the program began. These enforcement efforts are aimed at:

  • Retail outlets such as grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and bars to prevent teens from buying alcohol.
  • Cracking down on adult social providers of alcohol -- places where teens drink, such as at parties and at fraternities and sororities.
  • Efforts aimed at teens themselves.

In addition, law enforcement agencies in communities that received funding "showed relative increases in the median numbers of compliance checks, Cops in Shops operations and arrests of youth for purchases, possession or use of alcohol."

In public education, he said the program has stimulated large increases in the number of states sponsoring media campaigns and media advocacy to educate the public about the problem of underage drinking.

He said that prior to the start of the initiative, states' underage drinking efforts usually lacked coordination. This has changed considerably over the past four yea

Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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