In brief

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Reducing Underage Drinking: a collective responsibility

National Research Council Institute of Medicine. Edited by Richard J Bonnie and Mary O'Connell

The National Academies Press pound;35.95Distributed by Plymbridge

American society is at least as concerned about underage drinking as our own, and for similar reasons. "It is estimated that 50 per cent of violent crime is alcohol-related," this book states. And confirming what we suspect about college life in the US, we learn that: "On college campuses 95 per cent of all violent crime and 90 per cent of college rapes involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim, or both."

This book is the work of an influential "Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking". Not only does it present the depressing facts, it makes a collection of strong recommendations: about the behaviour of the entertainment and media industries; about marketing; about the enforcement of existing laws and the framing of new ones. It makes interesting and, to some extent, familiar reading.

What's certain is that this is one area where, far from fearing the spread of an epidemic from the US, we have a real and growing one of our own. The comparisons are interesting. In the US, "by the time children are seniors in high school, about 30 per cent are drinking heavily at least once a month".

At home, according to Alcohol Concern, "binge drinking is common among young people in the UK, with 56 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds having drunk more than five drinks on a single occasion in the past 30 days".

Direct comparisons are not easy, but anyone interested in the subject would do well to read the American book alongside the Alcohol Concern factsheet Young People's Drinking (www.alcoholconcern.org.uk). They'll find that if the US is worried, then maybe we should be even more so.

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