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The alcohol industry spoke to reporters this evening regarding a recent study pointing out high levels of alcohol abuse among teenagers. They dismiss the study as intended to "create sensational headlines". Kids don't drink, they say.

Phsaw. Of course kids drink. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Ask any high school students in Anerica, in a way that convinces them that you're not a cop. Upwards of 20 to 30 percent of the student body drinks at my local high school, and that's only the ones that I know of. In contrast, more than 70% are sexually active (based on official school-surveyed statistics).

Sex is no longer treated as forbidden to children by the school system; the world long ago accepted that teenagers were going to have sex and that they might as well be taught how to do it safely rather than ruin their lives. Notably, very few teenagers know anything about responsible drinking -- they've heard not to drink and drive, and most of them have learned how not to get caught when they do drink.

On the other hand, most teenagers don't know how much alcohol their bodies can handle before the consequences get serious. They don't know how to turn someone passed out on their side so they don't choke and die. They don't know the phone numbers for MADD where they can get a safe ride home.

Teaching alcohol responsibility is beginning to become a duty of local charities -- some students sign SADD's "contract", saying that they will call their parents if they can't find a safe ride home, without penalty, and that their parents will do the same in a similar situation. This stance avoids the risks that have come to be inherent in many teen lives, in a manner that confronts the problem rather than being merely prohibitive.

Clearly, these programs present a new approach to the problem, and one that tries to educate teens instead of morally decrying them. Similar curricula should be added to health education across the board in public schools. Alcohol-safety initiatives have proved effective at all levels of application. State education departments still lag behind in development of these policies, a trend which throws away lives that could easily be saved.

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