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Who Should Sponsor Community Events?

February 09, 1992

"Where do you draw the line?" asks Fred Balderrama, councilman for Monterey Park (Times, Feb. 2). Alcohol and gambling have treasured spots in American life, particularly in our commercial lives.

Your article about the San Gabriel Valley's first official Chinese New Year parade raised interesting questions about the roles of alcohol-industry sponsorship in such family-oriented community events.

When children are involved, we have a responsibility to draw lines all the time. Some things are clear: We wouldn't have an adult movie house sponsor a booth, for example. Unfortunately, with alcohol these decisions become more difficult. However, we do know a few things about alcohol that could guide us in these decisions.

First, alcohol is heavily involved in the three leading causes of teen-age deaths: motor vehicle accidents, suicides and homicides. If mayors "shuddered at the thought of fresh-faced drill team members marching alongside piles of poker chips," we need to remind decision makers that few teen-agers die of poker chips.

We need much more thoughtfulness about our portrayal and promotion of alcohol products to teen-agers.

Second, beer is the leading drug of choice for teen-agers. While decision makers propose banning hard liquor, tobacco or gambling company sponsorship, "beer is OK" for next year. This decision promotes a myth that beer is somehow less harmful than other alcoholic beverages. In fact, a can of beer is equivalent to a mixed drink.

More public debate is needed about alcohol product sponsorship of family events. Your article has sparked good discussion and hopefully will lead to sound policies for next year's parade.

ANGELA GOLDBERG

Chair, Los Angeles County Alcohol Policy Coalition

Pasadena

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