Underage drinking a 'public health crisis' says Roybal-Allard

Calling underage drinking "a public health crisis that is threatening the future health and productivity of our children," Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34), joined by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-45), introduced legislation last week to raise awareness about its dangers and the importance of aggressively enforcing 21 and under drinking laws.The risks of serious alcohol-related problems are reduced by 70 percent when a young person delays drinking alcohol until the age of 21. Knowing that underage drinking is strongly associated with real dangers, I have joined with Congresswoman Bono Mack in introducing the Support 21 Act of 2009," Roybal-Allard said. "The legislation will help us get the word out that enforcing our nation's underage drinking laws is crucial to protecting the health and well-being of our young people. We can no longer afford to address alcohol dependence exclusively as a disease of middle age. Bono Mack said far too many teenagers engage in risky, even life-threatening behavior, because of the influence of alcohol. "We need to do everything we can to inform our youth about the consequences of alcohol abuse in their adolescent years," Bono Mack said. "Underage drinking is a serious health problem facing communities throughout our nation. By working together on all levels and generating greater awareness we can promote a healthier environment and brighter future for our children." The Support 21 Act of 2009 (HR 1028) authorizes a new highly visible media campaign to educate the public about underage drinking laws and build support for their enforcement. It also asks the National Academy of Sciences to provide a report to Congress about the influence of drinking alcohol on the development of the adolescent brain. The legislation authorizes supplemental grant funds to current and former Drug Free Community grantees to work with pediatric health care providers and parents to reduce underage drinking. Additional grants are also provided to assist pediatric medical organizations in educating providers on best practices for screening their adolescent patients, doing brief interventions, and making appropriate referrals. Finally, the bill will establish a new focus in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on underage drinking surveillance and prevention. ********** Published: February 27, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 45