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Consumer Reports

AMA: Ban alcohol ads before 10 p.m. | (UPI) -- The American Medical Association asked television cable and network broadcasters Monday to pledge not to run alcohol-related advertisements before 10 p.m.

The new program, described during the organization's House of Delegates meeting, is intended to help discourage underage drinking.

"We don't want our children to drown in a river of cheap beer," said Dr. Edward Hill, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the AMA. "That's why we are urging the networks to protect our children's health, not their corporate profits, by not exposing kids to alcohol ads," Hill said.

In addition, the AMA also asked broadcasters to pledge not to air alcohol-related advertisements on any show in which more than 15 percent of the audience is comprised of teens or young adults who are under the legal drinking age.

Hill, a family practice doctor from Tupelo, Miss., noted that a year ago the AMA successfully lobbied NBC to change its plans to run ads for spirits, but the setback has not deterred the alcohol industry from pursuing advertisements aimed at young adults -- or even teenagers.

"One year later, the alcohol industry is just as aggressive in pursuing underage minds through television, and television is all too willing to comply," Hill said. "This is out of step with public health and public opinion." Hill said liquor companies are still negotiating with networks to pursue alcohol advertising.

"When kids drink, it is not just kids having fun." he said. "It is a public health crisis. The effects of alcohol on children's brains are long-lasting and possibly irreversible."

Telephone calls to the Washington-based National Association of Broadcasters for comment on the AMA position were not returned by United Press International press time.

At a news briefing, researchers explained alcohol consumption appears to cause impairment in the brains of alcohol dependent teenagers, and impairment in language and mathematic skills that seems to last long after these children have stopped drinking.

"We have known for a long time that alcohol use makes teenagers dead," said Dr. Michael Scotti, the AMA's senior vice president for professional standards. "Now we know that alcohol makes them dumb -- and it may make them dumb permanently."

Hill said the report released Monday by the AMA "dispels the common myth that young people are more resilient than adults to the adverse effects of drinking and shows that, in effect, the opposite is true." The report reviews several years of studies that show alcohol's negative impact on brain development and brain function.

The alcohol industry does not even follow its own rules for advertising aimed at young subjects, said David Jernigan, research director for the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University in Washington.

Jernigan displayed several ads that appeared to violate the industry's own voluntary code for pursuing dignity in advertisements for alcohol products. Included were a raucous fraternity-type party and another ad in which a young man licks spilled alcohol from the bare-midriff of a young woman.

Hill said studies have found children now begin trying alcohol at an average age of 12 years and nearly 20 percent of 12-to-20 year olds admit being binge drinkers -- that is, consuming five or more drinks at one sitting.

"Kids who abuse alcohol exhibit mild memory impairment and fewer learning strategies when acquiring new information," said Sandra Brown, chief of psychological services at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego, who has researched extensively the impact of alcohol the young brain. "By late adolescence we see a deterioration of their attention abilities as well as visual spatial impairment for those who continue to use alcohol heavily."

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