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Is Underage Drinking Advertising's Fault?

Regarding the editorial ``Alcohol and the Soft Sell,'' Feb. 17: The interpretation of a study by Joel Grube - that alcohol advertising influences young people's attitudes toward drinking - must be questioned, given the countervailing conclusions on this subject from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, and many independent researchers.

One of Mr. Grube's remarks cast doubt on his own study during an alcohol policy conference in Charleston, S.C., where he discussed his research in examining young people as they begin to drink. Grube told his audience: ``We have not been able to identify any effect of the advertising on initiation to drinking among these kids.''

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What, then, does influence young people's attitudes toward and decisions about drinking? Research is clear on the answer: family and friends. Even Grube suggests as much in his initial study, though he downplayed these findings: ``Children who perceived more parental approval of drinking believed that drinking was more likely to have positive consequences.... Children who believed that their peers drink more frequently knew more beer slogans, and children who perceived more peer approval for drinking named more brands of beer.''

Anheuser-Busch understands the need to be involved in addressing abusive and illegal underage drinking, and we have invested more than $100 million in the last decade toward doing so - on programs that involve parents, peers, and personal responsibility. Attention to these areas will continue to yield results. According to a federally funded study by the University of Michigan, drinking among high school seniors is at its lowest level since 1975. Further, teen drunken-driving fatalities have declined almost 60 percent in the last decade, according to the US department of Transportation. Let's continue that progress by working together - putting our resources where they count. Joseph P. Castellano, St. Louis, Mo.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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