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Costs ot teen drinking alarm authorities
January 9, 2012 (San Diego) -- San Diegans should be alarmed at the amount of money coming out of their pocketbooks as a result of underage drinking, the head of San Diego County’s Alcohol Policy Panel Beth Sise said today. Underage drinking cost Californians nearly $6.8 billion in 2010, according to a report released recently by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, a nationally recognized nonprofit specializing in research related to the use of alcohol and other drugs. 
Costs of Underage Drinking by Problem in California in 2010
(in millions)
Youth Violence

Youth Traffic Crashes

High-Risk Sex (ages 14-20)

Youth Property Crime

Youth Injury

Poisonings & Psychoses

FAS Among Mothers (ages 15-20)

Youth Alcohol Treatment


Broken down further, the research group put the price tag at more than $1,800 per year per youth. 
“These numbers are staggering and should alarm everyone in this community,” said Sise, who is also Director of Trauma Research and Injury Prevention at Scripps Mercy Hospital-San Diego Trauma Service. “Imagine the number of books our schools could buy or the number of potholes that could be fixed if our government coffers were spared from the cost of underage drinking.”
The Alcohol Policy Panel formed in the 1990s when binge drinking among adolescents was rapidly rising and the age of first use was steadily declining.Over the years, the Policy Panel has played a large role I the enactment of local policies, including alcohol restrictions at parks and beaches and ordinances limiting alcohol advertising on billboards and university campuses.
Recently infused with new members, energy and enthusiasm, Sise said the Policy Panel once again is preparing to take action to prevent underage and binge drinking.
“We hope to change the way people view underage and binge drinking,” she said. “These are dangerous behaviors that threaten the safety of the general public as much as they endanger young people engaging in the behaviors. As a community, we can’t continue to accept these activities as part of growing up. The consequences and costs are too great.”
She added:  “We are not going to eradicate underage and binge drinking, but we can create an environment in which these behaviors are less likely to occur by addressing the root causes. According to the Policy Panel, these causes include alcohol marketing to youth, retail alcohol availability and social alcohol availability.”
Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Initiatives at San Diego State University and Policy Panel member Jim Lange said he supports targeting the sources of alcohol to prevent underage and binge drinking.
“Although underage and binge drinking often seem insurmountable, they are not,” Lange said.  “As a community, we need to do more than ask young people to obey laws and be careful.
“We need to look at the messages that are being sent to youth through local advertising and marketing, excessive alcohol outlet density, poor business practices by alcohol businesses and adults willing to host large groups of underage drinkers. “
The Policy Panel is focusing its efforts on engaging the community in putting together policy-based solutions.
Other members of the Policy Panel include: Patricia Duke, assistant sheriff, San Diego County; Larry Barnett, assistant vice president of public safety, University of San Diego; Cally Bright, deputy district attorney, San Diego County; Megan Browning, chief pediatric resident for the University of California San Diego; Jim Crittenden, project specialist, San Diego County Office of Education; Karen Fleck, president, Ninth District PTA; Mack Jenkins, chief, San Diego County Probation; Wayne Ludwig, health programs director, Navy Region Southwest; Eloisa Orozco, executive director, San Diego Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Stacie Perez program director, Episcopal Community Services’ ACCORD DUI Program ; Wayne Sanders, reverend, Diocese of San Diego; and Stan Stanley, executive director, Pathfinders.
The Policy Panel hosts a quarterly community breakfast for residents interested in getting more involved in preventing underage and binge drinking. The next breakfast is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 3, and the keynote speaker will be Ingrid Daffner Krasnow, from the Berkeley Media Studies Group. To learn more about the San Diego County Alcohol Policy Panel, visit

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