I'd like to respond to Assemblyman Jim Beall's Feb. 21 piece ("Teens – especially girls – drinking alcohol marketed toward them"), in which he responded to my own op-ed, "Adults must play a leading role in preventing underage drinking," which ran on Jan. 24.
Mr. Beall's assertion that underage drinking is on the rise amongst underage girls is simply inaccurate. According to the federally funded, authoritative 2007 Monitoring the Future study, we're seeing both long-term and short-term declines – for girls as well as boys – in 30-day prevalence of drinking and in two-week prevalence of five or more drinks in a row. What can be factually stated is that the decline for girls is not as rapid as it is for boys.
Mr. Beall also relies on a "study" by the American Medical Association to support his assertion that underage drinkers, "especially girls," are the primary consumers of flavored malt beverages. This is a reference to an AMA Internet "survey" in 2004. Outsiders are not in a position to determine whether this 2004 AMA publication bears any relationship to reality because the AMA will not divulge the supporting data and details of methodology. However, a similar survey conducted by AMA in 2006 ("Sex and Intoxication More Common Among Women on Spring Break") was harshly criticized by the president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research as misleading and unprofessional. (See Washington Post, "Sex, Booze and Surveys: Journos Gone Wild," May 29, 2006, p. C-1). I understand the AMA's Office of Alcohol Policy, which produced both "studies," was subsequently disbanded.
Finally, Mr. Beall says, "simple common sense labeling legislation, like my AB346, has been met with hostility by the alcohol industry." Diageo, I'd like to note, went on record in support of AB346 last year.
Guy L. Smith
Executive Vice President
Diageo North America