Novello Renews Attack Against Alcohol Industry

By Ellen Flax — April 22, 1992 1 min read

In her latest salvo against the alcohol industry, Surgeon General Antonia Novello released two reports last week indicating that teenagers who drink are more likely to commit crimes or to be victims of crimes and accidents.

In her eighth and ninth reports on the use of alcohol and tobacco by teenagers since assuming her post, Dr. Novello charges that alcohol plays a large but unrecognized role in many crimes, accidents, and pregnancies, as well as in school dropout rates.

“First, the teenager takes a drink, then another, and finally the drink takes the teenager,’' she said, “and according to these reports, where it leads him or her is not a pretty sight.’'

Alcohol advertisements that portray young people engaging in water sports and other physical activities that become risky after even one or two drinks should be withdrawn by the industry, she said. Young people, she said, often fail to understand that mixing drinking and risk-taking is ill-advised.

According to the new reports, some of the “unrecognized consequences’’ of underage alcohol use include:

  • Crime and victimization. Almost one-third of the teenagers who commit a serious crime have consumed alcohol just before committing the crime, the report said. And among college-age crime victims, the report said, one study found that 50 percent were under the influence of alcohol when they were assaulted.
  • Sexual assault. Among high-school students, almost one-fifth of those surveyed said forcing a girl to have sex is acceptable if she is drunk, the report said.
  • Injuries. Besides the well-known link between alcohol use and automobile accidents, about half of all young males who drown were drinking before the accident, and nearly half of all diving-accident victims were drinking before their injury, the report said.
  • Dropping out. Students who have consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion during a two-week period are twice as likely to skip school, nearly five times as likely to damage school property, and twice as likely to receive low grades as students who do not binge drink, the report said.
  • Nearly 25 percent of 10th-graders, and one in eight 8th graders, are binge drinkers, federal surveys have found.

    A version of this article appeared in the April 22, 1992 edition of Education Week as Novello Renews Attack Against Alcohol Industry