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Preventing Underage Drinking Act

Location: Washington, DC

PREVENTING UNDERAGE DRINKING ACT -- (Senate - December 06, 2006)

Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, just over 3 years ago, on September 30, 2003, I held a hearing as chairman of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Subcommittee on the problem of underage drinking. Senator Dodd, who later joined me in crafting a bill to help combat the problem, joined me at that hearing. We were there to discuss this serious problem affecting the health and well-being of our Nation's young people--a problem that has been ignored for too long--a problem that kills thousand of America's teenagers.

We all know that underage drinking is a significant issue for youth in this country. We have known that for a very long time. We have known that underage drinking often contributes to the 4 leading causes of deaths among 15 to 20-year-olds--that 69 percent of youths who died in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the year 2000 involved young drinking drivers--that in 1999, nearly 40 percent of people under age 21 who were victims of drownings, burns, and falls tested positive for alcohol.

We have known that alcohol has been reported to be involved in 36 percent of homicides, 12 percent of male suicides, and 8 percent of female suicides involving people under 21. And we have known that underage drinking accounts for 6.5 times more deaths among young people than illicit drug use.

How did we get here? How did our Nation reach this point--a point where today, 12 percent of eighth graders--12 and 13-year-olds--binge drink? These statistics are frightening. Too many American kids are drinking regularly, and they are drinking in quantities that can be of great harm to them.

As a nation, we clearly haven't done enough to address this problem. We haven't done enough to acknowledge how prevalent and widespread teenage drinking is in this country.

We haven't done enough to admit that it is a real problem with very real and very devastating consequences. We haven't done enough to help teach America's children about the dangers of underage drinking. We talk about drugs and the dangers of drug use, as we should, but the reality is that we, as a society, have become complacent about the problem of underage drinking. This has to change. The culture has to change.

In reaction to these problems, I worked with my friend and colleague from Connecticut, Senator Dodd, to write a bill that will provide some of the tools our communities need to combat underage drinking.

The Sober Truth on Preventing, STOP, Underage Drinking Act would be an important step toward reducing underage drinking on our college campuses and in our schools and communities. This bill will provide authorization for funding to encourage parental awareness of the problem, such as the ongoing Ad Council campaign on underage drinking. It will also provide authorization for grants on college campuses and in surrounding communities to change the culture of drinking that so permeates our institutions of higher education. It will also provide grants to our communities to specifically target underage drinking reduction, as well as authorize additional research that is so important to helping us to further understand this problem and prevent the negative consequences associated with it.

I want to thank Senator Dodd for his hard work on this bill. He has been a great champion for the prevention of underage drinking. He is a tireless fighter for America's children and youth. He cares about kids. He cares about their well-being. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him on many pieces of legislation to help protect children and promote their health and welfare. I know that combating teenage drinking has been and continues to be very important to him, and I thank him for his interest in this area. I also thank Chairman Enzi and Ranking Member Kennedy for their help in passing this important legislation.

Kids are beginning to drink earlier and earlier--at younger and younger ages--and they are doing so in ways that could negatively affect their bodies, their minds, and their futures. I urge swift passage of this legislation and look forward to seeing the good work that comes from it.

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