CASA* White Paper: Underage and Adult Excessive Drinking Accounts for Half of U.S. Alcohol Sales, Underaged Drinkers More Likely to Drink Excessively as Adults | Center on Addiction

CASA* White Paper: Underage and Adult Excessive Drinking Accounts for Half of U.S. Alcohol Sales, Underaged Drinkers More Likely to Drink Excessively as Adults

CASA* White Paper: Underage and Adult Excessive Drinking Accounts for Half of U.S. Alcohol Sales, Underaged Drinkers More Likely to Drink Excessively as Adults

NEW YORK, N.Y., February, 27, 2003

Underage drinking accounts for 19.7% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. and adult excessive drinking accounts for another 30.4%. Together, that is 50.1% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. and 49% of consumer expenditures for alcohol in 1999 (the most recent year for which necessary data was available), according to a new white paper, The Economic Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking to the Alcohol Industry, issued by CASAColumbia (CASA*) at Columbia University. The CASA white paper is based on the study published in the February 26 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by Susan Foster, CASA Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis.

The study reveals that adult excessive drinkers account for 9.1% of drinkers but 46.3% of the total alcohol consumed. Underage drinking accounted for $22.5 billion and adult excessive drinking accounted for $34.4 billion – together, $56.9 billion of the total $116.2 billion spent on alcohol.

“These numbers unmask the alcohol industry's addiction to underage and adult excessive drinkers,” says Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, “a dependence the beer, wine and liquor industries must shake if we are to reduce the public costs and private agony of alcohol misuse and abuse - liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers as well as crime (including assault and rape), child abuse, accidents and family breakup.”

The economic reality of the alcohol industry is that it must maintain or increase consumption if it is to ensure future profits. This means that the industry must continually attract new drinkers as current drinkers quit or die. Drinking during the teen years hikes the chances of alcoholism later in life.

  • Those who begin drinking before the age of 21 are more than twice as likely to develop alcohol-related problems compared to those who began drinking at age 21 or older
  • Individuals who begin drinking before age 15 are 4 times likelier to become alcohol dependent than those who do not drink before age 21
  • The incidence of lifetime alcohol abuse and dependence is greatest for those who begin drinking between the ages of 11 and 14

These facts shed light on current advertising and marketing practices that expose children and young people to extensive magazine and television advertising for alcohol, and the entry onto the market of sweet, malt based alcoholic drinks that have particular appeal to kids. “This white paper reveals an urgent need to mount an aggressive public health campaign to curb underage and adult excessive drinking,” says Foster.

On the release of the white paper, former U.S. Surgeons General Julius Richmond (President Carter), Antonia Novello (President George H.W. Bush) and David Satcher (President Clinton, President George W. Bush) and former First Lady Betty Ford joined CASA in a nationwide call for action by the alcohol industry, parents and the public health community. In a joint statement, the U.S. Surgeons General called on the alcohol industry to:

  • Endow an independent foundation with no ties to the alcohol industry to work exclusively to curb underage drinking and adult excessive drinking
  • Include in its advertising and product labels clear warnings of the dangers of underage drinking and adult excessive drinking and the definition of moderate drinking as defined by Nutritional Guidelines of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture – no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men
  • Include in product labels the nutritional health profile of the contents, including caloric content
  • In a separate statement, Mrs. Ford and Califano called on the alcohol industry to provide $1 billion to endow a completely independent foundation

The nutritional guidelines of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism define moderate drinking as no more than one drink a day for most women and two drinks a day for most men. The JAMA article used the two drink standard for both sexes as a more conservative measure for its calculation of adult excessive drinking.

The minor variation between the percent of alcohol consumed by underage and adult and excessive drinkers (50.1%) and the amount spent on such drinking (49%) is attributable to the different types of alcohol consumed (beer, wine or distilled spirits.)

CASAColumbia at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope. With a staff of more than 70 professionals, CASA has demonstration projects in 60 sites in 32 cities and 21 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring 15,000 individuals and more than 200 programs and 5 drug courts in 26 states.

*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."


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