Because summer is a time when teen drunk-driving deaths peak and teens are at high risk of starting to drink, the Federal Trade Commission is urging adults around the nation to say “Let’s Make it a Safe Summer. Don’t Serve Alcohol to Teens.”
“Don’t clam up if other adults serve alcohol to your kids,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Don’t buy into the guilt. Don’t buy into the myths about underage drinking.”
The FTC is launching its “Safe Summer” campaign with a Web site, http://www.dontserveteens.gov/safesummer.html, providing information about underage drinking and camera-ready campaign materials that warn against it. Web banners and buttons, downloadable posters and public service announcements, and sample letters to the editor and opinion pieces are included.
For almost a quarter of a century, the national legal drinking age has been 21, and teen drinking during that time has fallen by 25 percent. Despite this achievement, alcohol remains the most widely abused substance among U.S. teens, according to a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General last fall.
Most teens who drink alcohol get it from family members or friends. While the dangers of teen drinking are well documented, many myths persist, and parents may feel pressured by their teenagers and by other adults to look the other way. These are just a few of the myths parents may encounter:
- A national legal drinking age just makes alcohol “forbidden fruit” that kids try harder to get. The Truth: Teen drinking has been substantially reduced since Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, making it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase alcohol.
- The legal drinking age in Europe is younger than it is in the United States, and European kids don’t seem to have the same degree of alcohol-related problems as American kids. Maybe the U.S. drinking age should be lowered. The Truth: A recent National Institutes of Health publication shows that European countries with lower drinking ages have the same teen drinking problems as the U.S., or worse.
- I drank when I was a kid, and I'm okay, so what's the problem with letting teens drink now? The Truth: About 5,000 people under 21 die from injuries related to underage drinking every year. Teens who drink are at more likely than nondrinkers to ride with a drinking driver; have unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity; use tobacco; experience interpersonal violence; consider or attempt suicide; and use marijuana, cocaine, or inhalants. Underage drinking is also a risk factor for heavy drinking later in life.
- It’s better to hold the party at my house, so my kids and their friends aren't out driving. The Truth: Letting other families’ kids drink in your house undermines their parents and in many states violates the law. Drunk driving isn’t the only danger associated with teen drinking, and you can’t guarantee that your teen guests won’t drive after they leave your house. Rather than providing a place where kids can drink, offer non-alcoholic choices.
Over the past two years, the We Don’t Serve Teens program has received tremendous assistance from its public and private partners. In 2007, the campaign generated an unprecedented 1.1 billion advertising impressions with a market value of over $9 million, and was recognized by the U.S. Senate and officials from 40 states.
Organizations helping with the We Don’t Serve Teens campaign include the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, American Beverage Licensees, Beer Institute, Distilled Spirits Council, National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, National Association of Broadcasters, National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, National Liquor Law Enforcement Association, National Consumer League, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Responsible Retailing Forum, Students Against Destructive Decisions, The Century Council, and Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
Join us in making it a safe summer!
(WDST NR 6-10)
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection