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Claim of young blacks victimized by alcohol ads is questionable

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMarketingJohns Hopkins University

The recent opinion piece by David Jernigan ("Alcohol companies target black youth," Oct. 23) underscores the need for a government review of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) and its misspending of $4 million in federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant money.

Despite Mr. Jernigan's continued assertions that alcohol advertising causes consumption, even he acknowledges in this latest report that African American youth drink less despite seeing more ads. This critical point was left out of his opinion piece.

In fact, this is CAMY's third "report" stating that African American youth see more alcohol ads, and each time government data has shown that they continue to drink less than other ethnic groups.

This latest CAMY report follows on yet another taxpayer-funded CAMY study that inexplicably concluded that anyone in an advertisement seen holding a beverage alcohol product on a beach or near a body of water was engaging in "risky" activity.

The distilled spirits industry strongly opposes illegal, underage drinking, and it spends millions to support programs to fight this complex societal problem. Significant progress has been made through the collective efforts of the beverage alcohol industry, colleges, communities and all levels of government. In fact, according to federal data, underage drinking, binge drinking and drunk driving fatalities are all at historic lows. The spirits industry and I both agree more needs to be done to make further progress, and the distillers are committed to doing their part.

CDC's funding would be better spent on evidence-based programs to reduce underage drinking versus advocacy-driven studies suggesting policy avenues that will have no impact on reducing underage drinking.

These types of wasteful and repetitive studies are why appropriators on Capitol Hill should question the CDC's grant-making process and why Johns Hopkins University and the public should question the credibility of CAMY's research.

Dr. Raymond Scalettar, Washington, D.C.

The writer is medical advisor to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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