American Medical Association Surveys Indicate Rise in Girls’ Consumption of Alcohol
The percentage of teenage girls who drink alcoholic beverages is growing faster than that of boys, and girls, on average, have their first alcoholic drink at age 13, according to the American Medical Association, Long Island Newsday reports (Talan, Long Island Newsday, 12/17). According to an online survey of 741 teens, about one in three girls had tried "alcopops" -- or "sweet, fruity alcoholic beverages" -- by the time they were age 18, and one in five girls who tried alcopops have "thrown up, or passed out, from drinking," according to the study, which was funded by AMA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Worland, Chicago Tribune, 12/17).
The study also found that 31% of teenage girls said they consumed an alcopop within the past six months, compared with 19% of boys. Further, half of teenage girls surveyed said they learned of the drinks from magazine ads, and the other 50% learned of the drinks from television commercials. In addition, the study found that about 17% of teenage girls said they were sexually active in the past six months after drinking alcohol and about 25% of teenage girls who have tried alcopops have driven after drinking or have been in a car with a driver who had been drinking. The second survey, which polled adults, found that 34% of women ages 21 and older said they had seen advertising for alcopops.
AMA officials said alcopops are partly to blame for the increase in underage alcohol consumption and the organization issued a warning to physicians to educate teenagers about the "dangers of such sweet drinks," according to Newsday. AMA President-Elect J. Edward Hill said he is "alarmed and concerned with these findings." AMA wants to establish "a dialogue between doctors, parents and teenagers" because teenagers "need to hear that there are significant medical and behavioral consequences to drinking alcopops," he added. Hill also said that companies that sell or manufacture alcopops are attempting to use them as "gateway" beverages to attract underage drinkers.
Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, said although the Federal Trade Commission has prohibited ads that appeal to teenagers, a recent report concluded that most industry members already comply with regulations. Laurie Leiber, spokesperson for the Marin Institute, said, "[Alcopops] are sweet, fizzy, and fruity like soft drinks," adding, "The advertising is hip, and the single-serving, ice-cold bottles have the look and feel of sports drinks" (Long Island Newsday, 12/17).
CBS' "Evening News" on Thursday reported on the AMA study. The segment includes comments from Hill (Bowers, "Evening News," CBS, 12/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.