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


Wolfson, associate professor of public health sciences (social sciences and health policy) and director of the Center for Community Research, said the 13-member Wake Forest team documented a dramatic increase in enforcement activities. "Clearly, the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program stimulated activity on a broad scale in the area of underage drinking prevention."

"However, these efforts have not yet produced corresponding changes in alcohol use by youth. While small reductions were observed in the number of youths reporting alcohol use, non-violent consequences of alcohol use, perceptions of alcohol use among peers and attempts to purchase alcohol, there were no statistically significant differences between youth in intervention and comparison communities."

He cautioned that results were based on only one year of intervention "which may not be adequate to affect alcohol use outcomes. Future reports of the national evaluation will include analysis of two years of funding."

He said that despite a uniform national drinking age of 21, "alcohol use by people under 21 is pervasive. Kids drink in large numbers." He said 20 percent of 8th-graders and 50 percent of 12th-graders report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Such drinking patterns lead to injuries, unsafe sex, and sexual assaults, in addition to the legal consequences.

Wolfson said the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program is the first major federal initiative focused exclusively on youth alcohol use. It is funded by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Though the current program is continuing, the Office of Juvenile Justice is planning a new phase that would randomly assign communities to either intervention or controls, employing the use of what are seen as best practices.

"The practices identified by experts as 'best' include conducting regular enforcement actions involving the use of underage decoys who attemp

Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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