Action Alert!
National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking Act of 2000

August 30, 2000

Congressman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) plan to introduce a bill to establish a national media campaign to prevent underage drinking in the United States, once the the House of Representatives reconvenes. The media campaign would be conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and would remain separate from the current Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

The need for a separate and "free-standing" campaign became evident last year when Congress voted down a measure to add underage-drinking prevention messages to the ONDCP youth anti-drug media campaign. Opponents, including General Barry McCaffrey, contended that the addition of alcohol would dilute the anti-drug message.

About the Bill
The Mica/Roybal-Allard legislation would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct an independent media campaign directed at underage drinking prevention. The Office of Public Health and Science, in conjunction with the Surgeon General, will conduct the campaign with messages based on current scientific research. The campaign will be modeled after ONDCP's anti-drug media campaign, while being separately funded. Specifically, the legislation will authorize:

  • Up to $1 million in the first year for DHHS to present a comprehensive strategy to develop, set in motion, conduct, and evaluate the underage-drinking prevention campaign;

  • Funding for the campaign for each of the following five years; and

  • Creation of a media campaign to complement, not replace, existing efforts.

What You Can Do
Contact your Representative's office and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor1 to Congressman Mica's and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard's National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking Act of 2000. You may reach your Representative utilizing the House of Representatives' "Write Your Representative" page at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.  Members may also be reached by calling the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  The phone number for Congressman Mica's office is 202-225-4035 and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard's is 202-225-1766.

Talking Points

Alcohol is the drug of choice among adolescents (Source: Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana: Gateways to Illicit Drug Use. Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1994).

Underage drinking costs Americans more than $58 billion per year (Source: Levy, Stewart & Wilbur. Costs of Underage Drinking. Pacific Institute, 1999. Written for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention).

Underage drinking costs Americans more than $35 billion in violent crimes, $18 billion in traffic crashes, and $1.5 billion in suicide attempts (Source: Levy, Stewart & Wilbur. Costs of Underage Drinking. Pacific Institute, 1999. Written for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention).

If the cost of underage drinking were shared equally by each congressional district, the amount would total more than $134 million per district (Source: Levy, Stewart & Wilbur. Costs of Underage Drinking. Pacific Institute, 1999. Written for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention).

Young people who began drinking before age 15 were four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who began drinking at age 21 (Source: Grant & Dawson. Age at Onset of Alcohol Use and its Association with DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse, Volume 9, pages 103-110, 1997).

The average age of first alcohol use in the United States is 13.1 (Source: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Main Findings 1996. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998).

In 1998, about 10.4 million current drinkers were between the age of 12-20 years old. Of these, 5.1 million were binge drinkers, including 2.3 million heavy drinkers2 (Source: Summary of Findings from the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

52% of 12th grade students, 38.8% of tenth grade students and 23% of 8th grade students, reported the use of alcohol in the past 30 days (Source: Johnston, O'Malley & Bachman. National Survey Results on Drug Use from the Monitoring the Future Study, 1975-1998. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

In 1995, the estimated cost of alcohol abuse was more than $166 billion (Source: Harwood, Fountain & Livermore. The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998).


1. Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN), Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), and Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have signed on as co-sponsors to the Mica/Roybal-Allard bill.

2. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse defines current use as at least one drink in the past month, binge use as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past month, and heavy use as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days in the past month.


For background information on past efforts to include alcohol messages in the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, please see the BoozeNews archives at http://www.cspinet.org/booze/arch.htm.