Teens and alcohol

August 21, 1991

Despite tragedies like the death of Brian Ball after a teen-aged all-you-can-drink party, drinking among teen-agers seems to have actually dropped slightly in the past few years, according to surveys of Maryland's high school seniors. Nationally, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths for drivers 16 to 20 years old has fallen by 23 percent -- although that decrease may be due more to changing driving patterns and the use of designated drivers than to less drinking among young people.

Clearly, however, there is much work to be done in the enforcement of liquor laws restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol to persons 21 and over, as well as in providing better alcohol education programs for young people.

But alcohol education efforts face obstacles that other drug programs do not have. Alcohol, after all, is legal for adults, and its presence is pervasive in this society. While it's relatively easy to give persuasive reasons for shunning all illicit drugs, it's more difficult to convince young people never to drink alcohol -- especially when it's often available at home.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug, but many Americans use it. Effective education efforts will recognize that fact and, rather than focusing only on convincing young people never to take a drink, urge them to wait until they are old enough to drink legally -- and then, if they must drink, to do it responsibly.

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