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DHS news release

Sept. 18, 2007

General contact: Tom Towslee, 971-673-0396, 503-559-0652
Program contact: Karen Wheeler, 503-945-6191

Oregon strategies to reduce underage drinking in line with national efforts

Oregon's strategies to prevent and reduce underage drinking are in line with a U.S. Surgeon General's appeal to keep America's 11 million current underage drinkers from using alcohol and to prevent other young people from starting.

Acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., made the case to control underage drinking at a National Prevention Network conference Monday in Portland. Although many Americans consider underage drinking a rite of passage to adulthood, Dr. Moritsugu said, research shows young people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life.

In Oregon, surveys found 32 percent of boys and 29 percent of girls in the eighth grade drank alcohol in the prior month. For 11th-graders the numbers were even higher, 48 percent of boys and 49 percent of girls.

"Today, we stand before you not only as representatives from federal and state government teamed up with private individuals, but as one unified force committed to combating underage drinking in Oregon," said Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, who spoke at a joint news conference with Dr. Moritsugu. Myers said the 2007 Oregon Legislature adopted proposals of the Attorney General's Underage Drinking Task Force to strengthen penalties against minors found guilty of alcohol possession.

In an effort to control underage drinking, Oregon adopted strategies that include legislative approval of Governor Ted Kulongoski's proposal to invest $1.5 million to implement the Strengthening Families program. This research-supported parenting program is designed to reduce adolescent substance use and other problematic behaviors in youths ages 10 to 14. Nearly 1,400 families will be reached by June 30, 2009.

Oregon is participating in a national effort to collect statewide and county-level data to support effective prevention strategies. "Oregon is using its limited resources effectively to fight what is a major public health challenge," said Karen Wheeler, Oregon Department of Human Services addictions policy manager. "We are both working in concert with national strategies and strengthening our messages to youth and the parents who influence them."

Among other Oregon strategies:

  • The "Face It, Parents" public education campaign aimed at parents and using advertising written and produced by youth, which is on the Internet at http://www.faceitparents.com/;
  • The "Friendly PEERsuasion" program that addresses the unique needs of elementary and middle-school girls, including Native Americans; and
  • Training law enforcement in the more consistent enforcement of laws related to underage drinking.

The strategies are part of six national goals to control underage drinking including fostering changes in American society, engaging parents and others in a coordinated national effort, promoting understanding of the negative effects of alcohol on youths, additional research, improved public health surveillance and ensuring that policies at all levels are consistent with the national goals of preventing and reducing underage drinking.

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