Alcohol use health consequences are considerable; prevention efforts are needed, particularly for adolescents and college students. The national minimum legal drinking age of 21 years is a primary alcohol-control policy in the United States. An advocacy group supported by some college presidents seeks public debate on the minimum legal drinking age and proposes reducing it to 18 years. We reviewed recent trends in drinking and related consequences, evidence on effectiveness of the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years, research on drinking among college students related to the minimum legal drinking age, and the case to lower the minimum legal drinking age. Evidence supporting the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years is strong and growing. A wide range of empirically supported interventions is available to reduce underage drinking. Public health professionals can play a role in advocating these interventions.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate time-trend changes in the frequency of drunkenness among European and North American adolescents.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional surveys in the 1997/1998 and 2005/2006 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study (HBSC).

SETTING: High schools in 23 countries.

PARTICIPANTS: A sample of 77 586 adolescents aged 15 years was analyzed by means of hierarchical linear modeling. Main Outcome Measure The frequency of drunkenness.

RESULTS: We observed a significant increase of about 40% in the mean frequency of drunkenness in all 7 participating Eastern European countries. This increase was evident among both genders, but most consistently among girls. Meanwhile, it declined in 13 of 16 Western countries, about 25% on average. Declines in Western countries were particularly notable among boys and in North America, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Despite this gender convergence, with few exceptions (Greenland, Norway, United Kingdom) boys continued to have a higher frequency of drunkenness in 2005/2006 than girls.

CONCLUSIONS: The confirmed cultural convergence implies that adoption and implementation of evidence-based measures to mitigate the frequency of adolescent drunkenness such as tax increases and restricting alcohol access and advertisement should get the same priority in Eastern European countries as in Western countries. Policy measures that might facilitate decreases in drunkenness such as server training and the promotion of alcohol-free leisure-time activities should be reinforced in Western countries. The gender convergence implies that prevention policy should be less exclusively focused on male adolescents.

BACKGROUND: Adolescent selective intervention programs for alcohol have focused on the identification of youth at risk as a function of personality and associated alcohol-related cognitions. Research into the role of personality, drinking motivations, and alcohol-related outcomes has generally focused exclusively on motives to drink. We expand on this literature by focusing on both motives to drink and motives not to drink across time from adolescence to early adulthood in a community sample.

METHODS: Using 3 waves of data from 3 cohorts from the Rutgers Health and Human Development Project (n = 1,380; 49.4% women), we modeled the influence of baseline alcohol consumption, disinhibition (DIS), and harm avoidance (ages 15, 18, and 21 years) on drinking motives and motives not to drink 3 years later (ages 18, 21, and 24 years) and alcohol use and drinking-related problems 7 years subsequently (ages 25, 28, and 31 years).

RESULTS: Path analytic models were relatively invariant across cohort. Across cohorts, DIS and baseline alcohol consumption related to later positive reinforcement drinking motives, but less consistency was found for the prediction of negative reinforcement motives to drink. While positive reinforcement motives were associated with greater alcohol consumption and problems 7 years later, negative reinforcement motives were generally associated with problems alone. Positive reinforcement motives for drinking mediated relations between baseline consumption and later consumption. However, results were mixed when considering DIS as a predictor and drinking problems as an outcome. Similarly, personality and baseline consumption related to later motives not to drink and such motives predicted subsequent alcohol-related problems. However, mediation was not generally supported for pathways through motives to abstain.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study replicate and extend previous longitudinal findings with youth and add to the growing literature on motivations not to engage in alcohol use.

BACKGROUND: This study evaluated the use of a modified Delphi technique in combination with a previously developed alcohol advertising rating procedure to detect content violations in the U.S. Beer Institute Code. A related aim was to estimate the minimum number of raters needed to obtain reliable evaluations of code violations in television commercials.

METHODS: Six alcohol ads selected for their likelihood of having code violations were rated by community and expert participants (N = 286). Quantitative rating scales were used to measure the content of alcohol advertisements based on alcohol industry self-regulatory guidelines. The community group participants represented vulnerability characteristics that industry codes were designed to protect (e.g., age <21); experts represented various health-related professions, including public health, human development, alcohol research, and mental health. Alcohol ads were rated on 2 occasions separated by 1 month. After completing Time 1 ratings, participants were randomized to receive feedback from 1 group or the other.

RESULTS: Findings indicate that (i) ratings at Time 2 had generally reduced variance, suggesting greater consensus after feedback, (ii) feedback from the expert group was more influential than that of the community group in developing group consensus, (iii) the expert group found significantly fewer violations than the community group, (iv) experts representing different professional backgrounds did not differ among themselves in the number of violations identified, and (v) a rating panel composed of at least 15 raters is sufficient to obtain reliable estimates of code violations.

CONCLUSIONS: The Delphi technique facilitates consensus development around code violations in alcohol ad content and may enhance the ability of regulatory agencies to monitor the content of alcoholic beverage advertising when combined with psychometric-based rating procedures.

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