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Lisa Graham Keegan: Parents carry far more weight with their kids than advertisements

In reference to the recent article, “New Study Suggests Alcohol TV Ads are Linked with Underage Drinking” I must express some dismay that the study’s authors never mention that long term trends by all measures of underage drinking are down significantly. Measure it anyway you choose – eighth grade, tenth grade or twelfth grade – over a 30-day period, 12 months or lifetime. The result is still the same. Past month consumption among teens has come down 42 percent from its most recent peak in 1996. I think this provides important context to any discussion about underage drinking.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (, funded by America’s leading distillers, believes the key to this undeniable long-term trend is the role parents play in influencing the positive decisions kids make regarding alcohol. The Foundation identified the important role of parents 25 years ago, and its Ask, Listen, Learn program, the most widely distributed program of its kind, has been shown to increase awareness of the consequences of underage drinking and facilitate conversations between parents and kids aimed at reducing underage drinking.

In 2007, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking also highlighted the important role parents play by urging parents to understand factors that increase risk and initiate and sustain an ongoing dialogue about alcohol.

All of this should amount to more than good advice. Measurable results are what count.’s research found that from 2003 to 2012, reported annual rates of underage drinking decreased 19 percent while conversations increased 62 percent. And the GfK Roper Youth Report, which has measured youth decisions about drinking for more than 20 years has shown consistently that parents have been the strongest influence on teens’ (13-17) decisions about drinking by a wide margin. In fact, parental influence has grown 27 percent since 1991 reaching 70 percent. At the same time, teens report that “what you see in ads” and “what you see in the media” remain the weakest influences with 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

In the end, there is neither a single cause of underage drinking, nor a single solution to stop it. As the Surgeon General’s Report suggests, “Adolescents operate within many different social systems, which both influence them and are, in turn, influenced by them (Bronenbrenner 1979).”

While the study’s authors clearly state that “…no study by itself can prove that an association is causal” we do know, time and time again, year after year, that parents are the key to eliminating underage drinking.


Lisa Graham Keegan

National Advisory Board

Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility


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