Underage drinking prevention gets boost from Congress

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

Programs designed to help curb a prevalent problem among Ohio teens are poised to get a financial boost.

The $1.5 trillion spending bill passed by Congress includes $12 million for the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act), a $2 million increase to help reduce underage alcohol use.

James Syphax, community prevention manager for the Prevention Action Alliance in Columbus, explained young people who drink are more likely to engage in other risky behavior, from drunken driving and fighting, to unplanned sexual activity.

He noted drinking also can disrupt healthy growth.

“When anyone under the age of 21 engages in consumption, they’re at risk of basically impeding the development of neuropathways, the development of the brain,” Syphax pointed out.

Where alcohol use is dropping in schools

In national data, alcohol use among 12th graders dropped 12% between 2020 and 2021. However, Syphax emphasized it is still the most commonly used substance among youth. Underage drinking accounts for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.

The STOP Act funds community-based Coalition Enhancement Grants. Groups use the money to prevent and reduce underage drinking through education campaigns and training, compliance checks, community engagement and enforcement of sales and service laws.

Syphax stressed young Ohioans are benefiting.

“In Lisbon, Ohio, the Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention Team Coalition saw 30-day past use among high school students decrease from 32.9% in 2011 to 25.7% in 2018,” Syphax outlined. “And that’s just one example.”

Beyond funding for local coalitions, the STOP Act also supports interagency cooperation among federal agencies. Syphax sees it as a well-rounded approach to preventing underage drinking.

“When prevention is worked on from multiple fronts, we increase our odds of making a difference,” Syphax asserted. “The STOP Act will provide local level funding as well as federal support, by providing data, media campaigns and other outlets for prevention.”


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