Underage Drinking Finally Addressed

For about a decade I've been helping Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) to raise the awareness of what underage drinking, is actually doing to America. Coach Osborne (R-Neb.) came in six years ago and made it a huge priority, and we're grateful that the STOP Act went to the president. The American Medical Association estimates the cost to the United States of underage drinking at $53 billion annually, based on the destruction caused and the problems that it creates.

The industry acts like it's not a problem sometimes, and clearly from Hollywood to Madison Avenue it's considered cool to drink. But binge drinking among children, and what it does to the brain for 13 and 14-year olds—to actually consume alcohol at the level that some people consume it—is information that the country needs.

This act pulls together all the different agencies and coordinates these activities. Half the people are in denial about the problem; the rest of the problem is that nothing's coordinated. It's a hodgepodge right now, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy doesn't even recognize this hardly as a problem.

So this bill creates a guide to federal underage drinking policy and program development. It creates an annual report, reporting requirements for state programs, efforts, and laws preventing underage drinking, outcome measures including reports on minimum age compliance, checks, and law enforcement, funding for underage drinking public service announcements, grants to reduce underage and binge drinking on college campuses, and funding for research on the impact of alcohol on the adolescent brain.

These are things that are legitimate problems for a $53 billion a year cost to our country; so a $20 million authorization bill over the next several years is just a drop in the bucket compared to the size and the scope of this problem.

Illegal drinking is a gateway to drug use for a lot of kids, and we've got to quit ignoring this problem and address this problem, and it's a national problem—it’s not just up to the states when we've got this kind of chronic problem. All you have to do is go to the beach for spring break and you'll see the problems with 15, 16, and 17-year old kids illegally drinking until they can't even walk, and wrecks and problems and people getting hurt—it’s a big problem, so we're doing something about it finally, and these people should be commended.