WASHINGTON – Congressman Zach Wamp was joined by his Senate and House colleagues today in introducing a comprehensive measure to coordinate all federal programs and research initiatives on underage drinking and to fund a national media campaign to prevent the problem.
Congressman Wamp is a leading House sponsor of the legislation, called “The STOP (Sober Truth on Preventing) Underage Drinking Act.” The measure is also being sponsored by Representatives Tom Osborne (R-NE), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). An identical Senate companion bill was introduced today by U.S. Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT).
“Unfortunately, illegal drinking is rampant today, and if you happen to travel to most beaches at Spring Break this year, you will see 14, 15 and 16-year-olds intoxicated, endangering themselves and everyone around them,” said Congressman Wamp. “This problem has been ignored too long, and parents need to demand accountability from the alcohol industry and the advertising industry.”
“Alcohol is a drug, and for many teenagers, it is the first one they try - then move on to others. We should stand together against underage drinking because while it is ignored by some, it is illegal and must be taken very seriously.”
Given that most children and underage youth who drink obtain the alcohol from their parents or another adult, the bill would authorize a national media campaign directed at adults. So far, Congressman Wamp and his colleagues in Congress have worked to secure more than $1 million for the Ad Council's campaign expected to begin this year. The STOP Act would authorize another $1 million toward this effort. A typical Ad Council campaign results in an estimated $28 million per year in donated media from approximately 28,000 media outlets that print or air the public service announcements at no charge.
The bill has three other major areas of underage drinking policy development. The measure would provide $2 million to create an Interagency Coordinating Committee to coordinate the efforts and expertise of various federal agencies to combat underage drinking. It would also mandate an annual report to Congress on these federal efforts to prevent underage drinking and require an annual report card from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on efforts to combat underage drinking at the state level.
STOP would provide $5 million in enhancement grants to the Drug Free Communities program to address the problem of underage drinking. In addition, a new program would be funded at $5 million annually to provide competitive grants to states, non-profits, and institutions of higher education to create statewide coalitions to prevent underage drinking and alcohol abuse by university students.
Finally, the bill would provide $6 million to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase research and data collection on underage drinking. This information would include the types and brands of alcohol that kids use and the short- and long-term impact of underage drinking upon adolescent brain development.
The measure has been endorsed by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and MADD. MADD presented Congressman Wamp with its 2004 Congressional Excellence Award for his work in preventing drunk driving.