Action Alert: Support the STOP Underage Drinking Act (H.R.4888/S. 2718)

Health Issues



On Wednesday, July 21, Senators DeWine (R-OH) and Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Wolf (R-VA), Wamp (R-TN), DeLauro (D-CT), and Osborne (R-NE) introduced the bi-partisan, bi-cameral “Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act,” or “STOP Underage Drinking Act” (H.R. 4888 in the House and S. 2718 in the Senate). Inspired by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine’s September 2003 recommendations to Congress for a national strategy to prevent and reduce underage drinking (“Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility”), the bill represents a long-overdue acknowledgement of the need to begin addressing the many harms related to underage drinking.



What the “STOP Underage Drinking Act” Does:

The companion House and Senate bills include four areas of policy development.

1)   Improved Federal Coordination and Leadership on Underage Drinking Prevention.  The bill provides $2 million for a committee of federal agencies focused on underage drinking.  Chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the committee is charged with guiding policy and program development across the federal government with respect to underage drinking. The committee will also produce two reports – an annual report to Congress on progress at the federal level and a report card to evaluate efforts at the state level.  The annual report to Congress will summarize:

  • All programs and policies of federal agencies designed to prevent underage drinking.

  • The extent of progress in reducing underage drinking nationally.

  • Patterns and consequences of underage drinking.

  • Measures of the availability of alcohol to underage populations and of the exposure of this population to messages regarding alcohol in advertising and entertainment media.

  • Findings derived from the additional research on underage drinking called for by the bill, such as brand preferences of underage drinkers and their exposure to alcohol advertising.

  • Evidence-based best practices to both prevent underage drinking and provide treatment services to those youth who need them.

The annual “report card” will assess the performance of each state in enacting and enforcing laws, regulations, and programs to prevent and reduce underage drinking. The inter-agency committee, in consultation with public health, consumer, and alcoholic beverage industry groups, will create measures to evaluate state progress in adopting and implementing programs that can reduce underage drinking (such as strict enforcement of minimum drinking age laws, compliance checks of alcohol retail outlets, levels of investment of State funds in underage drinking prevention and other programs).


2)   Beginnings of a National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking.  The bill provides for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to continue funding and overseeing the production, broadcasting, and evaluation of the Ad Council’s adult-oriented public service media campaign. The bill provides $1 million for each of the fiscal years 2005 and 2006.  It also requires the Secretary to provide an annual report to Congress detailing the progress and effectiveness of the campaign as well as the need for and likely effectiveness of an expanded adult-oriented media campaign, and the feasibility and likely effectiveness of a national youth-focused media campaign to combat underage drinking. 


3) Funding for Community and Campus Efforts to Prevent Underage Drinking.  The bill provides $5 million in FY 2005 for the award of “enhancement grants” of up to $50,000 for organizations to design, test, evaluate, and disseminate strategies to maximize the effectiveness of community-wide approaches to underage drinking.  The bill further provides $5 million in FY 2005 for the Secretary of Education to award grants to enable eligible entities to reduce the rate of underage alcohol use, binge drinking, and drug use among college and university students.


4) Additional Research and Data Collection on Underage Drinking.  The act provides $6 million to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect data on, and conduct or support research on, underage drinking with respect to the following:

  • The short and long-range impact of alcohol use and abuse upon adolescent brain development.

  • Community-based strategies to prevent underage drinking.

  • Improved knowledge of the scope of the underage drinking problem and progress in preventing and treating underage drinking.

  • More precise information than is currently collected on the type and quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed by underage drinkers as well as information on brand preferences of these drinkers and their exposure to alcohol advertising.


Why It's Needed:

Alcohol is the leading drug problem among young people in the United States and underage drinking contributes to the deaths of 6.5 times more young people than all illicit drugs combined.  The public health, safety, consumer protection, education, child and family welfare, and faith communities have fought for years to elevate underage drinking on the national public policy agenda.  This bill represents an important first step in developing an effective national response to the devastating public health and safety problem of underage drinking.



Take Action:

Call, fax, or e-mail your Senators and Representative today and urge him/her to co-sponsor S. 2718 (Senate) and companion bill H.R. 4888 (House).   

Here’s how to do it:.



1)  Call your U.S. Representative’s Washington office. (If you don’t have the number, call 202-224-3121 and the Capitol Switchboard will connect you).

2)  Ask to speak with the staff member who handles alcohol and/or health issues.

3)  Whether you speak with a staffer or leave a message on his/her voice mail, your message is the same.  Identify yourself as a constituent and ask that the Senator or Representative co-sponsor S. 2718 (Senate) and companion bill H.R. 4888 (House).


E-mail or Faxà

Some Members have e-mail addresses, while others prefer that you send your comments via their web site. Fax numbers are generally made public.  To look up your Representative’s contact info, click here.



Sample message: 

I urge Senator/Representative [Smith] to co-sponsor the bi-partisan STOP Underage Drinking Prevention Act, recently introduced by Senators DeWine and Dodd (S.2718) and by Representatives Roybal-Allard, Wolf, DeLauro, Wamp, and Osborne (H.R 4888).   Alcohol plays a substantial role in the top three causes of teen death (traffic crashes, murder, and suicide) and costs the nation an estimated $53 billion per year.  Despite its massive toll in dollars and lives, and while illicit drugs and tobacco youth prevention receive considerable attention and support, underage drinking prevention has consistently been neglected.  Please support this modest bill and help promote real progress on this serious youth health and safety issue.  I look forward to hearing your response and thank you for your consideration.



July 26, 2004

Related Links:

CSPI Press Release

Dewine/Dodd Press Release

Read the bill


Email this link


For more information, please contact:

Kim Hennemeyer, Manager of Federal Relations, or

Amy Gotwals, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy



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