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Beer and Break-Dancing; Rum and Rock and Roll

Karin Davies
Washington News
May 2, 1985

An advocate of restrictions on alcohol advertising told a House committee Thursday that young people are being led to believe that drinking is essential to fun.

Breweries give college students T-shirts, hats, pins and posters featuring athletes and women in skimpy bathing suits to entice them to buy beer, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

When they turn on their radios there is a funk group promoting beer, and on television a Michael Jackson look-alike is break-dancing on a wine commercial, he said.

''It is no exaggeration to say that the students are being indoctrinated into a lifestyle in which alcohol is the essential and central prop,'' Jacobson said.

Witnesses suggested that more money be spent to educate youngsters about the adverse effects of alcohol, regulatory curbs be placed on advertisements of alcohol, and taxes on beer and wine be increased.

Tim Reid, co-star of Simon and Simon, said television writers, producers, directors and actors have become more sensitive in recent years to the use of alcohol on prime time TV.

The use of alcohol on Dallas, a popular show about oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, has been cut by 70 percent in the past year.

The alcohol industry has worked with organized sports, churches, schools and the media to provide information about alcohol-related programs, said August Hewlett, president of the Alcohol Policy Council, a nonprofit group funded by the industry.

Others, however, criticized the industry.

Sue Rusche, executive director of the Families in Action National Drug Information Center, told the panel that ''None of the laws make any difference if nobody enforces them.''

Despite concerted efforts, Families in Action in DeKalb County, Ga., has had little success in getting local officials to enforce laws and the alcohol industry officials to comply with them, she said.
The experience in Cheraw, S.C., a town of 6,000 has been very different.

As the result of a program launched by Mayor Howard Duvall, the number of teenagers killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents is decreasing.

''Leadership from the top is very important,'' Duvall said.

A Westchester County, N.Y. high school student credited a counselor who was assigned to her school to deal with alcohol-related problems with saving her life. The student became suicidal after her alcoholic father was abusive to her and made sexual advances toward her.

She didn't have any way to get to a clinic, so she turned to the Student Assistance Program, whose counselors ''are confidential friends that offer a strong shoulder and an educated ear.''


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