New campaign fights underage drinking in city

October 26, 2001|By Jean-Marie McDonald | Jean-Marie McDonald,SUN STAFF

Baltimore officials joined representatives of the Johns Hopkins University and the liquor industry in Charles Village yesterday to launch an advertising campaign designed to curb underage drinking.

The campaign, unveiled at a liquor store in the 3100 block of St. Paul St., features themes from 1980s music, movies and trends.

One advertisement warns, "If you've never done the Moonwalk -- prepare to be carded," referring to Michael Jackson's famous dance move.

The ads are designed to be "stern, but humorous ... something young people take notice of," said Monica Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the Century Council, the not-for-profit educational arm of the nation's liquor distillers.

The campaign -- which will use posters, decals and buttons at liquor stores -- is geared toward people younger than 21, the legal drinking age in Maryland.

The campaign was launched in Baltimore -- the 32nd city in the nation to join the effort, according to industry officials -- during National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week.

"Developmentally, when students leave home, they are still kids. They don't have the life skills you acquire throughout college," said Dr. Patricia Martin, Hopkins' director of education for health and wellness. "There's a big difference between an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old."

Martin said that when students become overwhelmed by school, many turn to alcohol or drugs. "So we have to teach them things like good stress-management techniques," she said.

A handful of city officials attended the event yesterday.

"There is a growing number of [underage drinkers], and it is important to educate them on what happens as a result of drinking," said City Council President Sheila Dixon, who did not attend the event but sent a representative.

This year, the Police Department and city liquor inspectors increased efforts in some areas of Baltimore to stop the sale of alcohol to underage buyers.

Using underage police cadets in a series of sting operations, police officers and liquor inspectors found that although many liquor stores display signs warning that identification is checked, some sold alcohol to youths.

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