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Underage Drinking and FTC We Don't Serve Teens Initiative

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the topic of underage drinking. It is an issue that challenges every generation of public officials, parents, educators, law enforcement, industry members, and concerned citizens. But through bipartisan leadership and almost three decades of public and private effort, our Nation has made some substantial progress. I mention ``bipartisan'' because it was President Reagan who teamed up with Democrats in Congress to enact the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.

At the signing ceremony, the President's remarks are a great lesson in federalism and national leadership that remains very important today. He said that underage drinking is a problem that is ``bigger than the individual States.'' He called underage drinking a ``grave national problem'' that ``touches all our lives.'' President Reagan concluded, ``With the problem so clearcut and the proven solution at hand, we have no misgiving about this judicious use of Federal power.''

I said that this was a bipartisan effort. Our colleague from the other body, Senator Lautenberg from New Jersey, was instrumental in guiding the measure through Congress, and he continues to be a forceful advocate for young people today.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, the number of fatalities in teen drunk driving crashes has declined 74 percent since the early 1980s. Studies from the Department of Transportation and Government Accountability Office indicate that the 21-year-old drinking age has saved tens of thousands of lives. Most government measures of underage drinking have also declined.

Parents, educators, and other adults who have influence on young people need to recognize that older teens are still capable of making youthful mistakes, and some of these mistakes can be fatal. We should not do anything that allows our young people to obtain alcohol before they reach the legal drinking age. We need to remain involved in their lives and do everything we can to encourage and insist that they make responsible decisions.

Back in 2006, our colleague Lucille Roybal-Allard led the effort to enact the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act, better known as the STOP Act. The law established a framework for cooperation among Federal agencies with responsibility to address underage drinking. In mid-July, we received a report from the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee that was formally established by the STOP Act. It documents Federal Government prevention initiatives across 17 agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, which created the We Don't Serve Teens program as a public education and outreach initiative.

The 2011 launch of We Don't Serve Teens occurred last week in Chicago and throughout the Nation. One purpose of the We Don't Serve Teens initiative is to inform parents and all adults that teen drinking is not inevitable. Crown Imports and MillerCoors, the number two and number three American beer suppliers, are both headquartered in the district I represent in Chicago. Both companies have supported the We Don't Serve Teens program since it began in 2006.

I am pleased that these two companies have joined the FTC, Members of Congress, Chicago officials, and thousands of concerned citizens to support We Don't Serve Teens. We need everyone at the table. Industry members have a unique ability to reach out directly to local stores, bars, restaurants, and other places where alcohol is served.

The We Don't Serve Teens message is reinforced. I commend these efforts. I especially commend the distributors of these alcoholic beverages in their effort to make sure that teens handle alcohol responsibly. The best way is to not drink at all.

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