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Changing attitudes about drinking

As she was growing up, Jane Brandt learned that it wasn't necessary to drink alcohol to have a good time. In a recent phone interview, the author of "Drinks Without Alcohol" (Workman Publishing) recalled parties where her mom concocted a variety of imaginative nonalcoholic beverages.

But when she attended others' get-togethers in the 1970s, Ms. Brandt found that hosts had rarely planned ahead for those who didn't imbibe. They belatedly offered nondrinking guests a glass of juice or a soft drink or dusted off an old bottle of seltzer.

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What a difference 20 years makes. Festive occasions nowadays routinely feature nonalcoholic choices. And not just because of tough drunk-driving laws. Americans are drinking less. In 1994, alcohol consumption in the US fell to its lowest level in 31 years and has continued its downward trend each year since, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

That trend is even beginning to show up on college campuses. A task force at Florida State University has recommended devoting one parking lot to alcohol-free tailgating parties. And the Interfraternity Council of the University of Arizona in Tucson has proposed banning alcohol at campus fraternity parties. The reason, says council president Alex Rio, is to de-emphasize alcohol use: "There's a national trend moving that way.... I think it's about time to have a more mature movement as far as alcohol is concerned."

In a month traditionally filled with parties, it's a message that bears repeating.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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