Federal drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey has launched a $1-billion media campaign to dissuade youngsters from substance abuse. Not a penny, however, will address the substance that today's teenagers are abusing the most: alcohol.
With youth consumption on the rise since the early 1990s, even McCaffrey acknowledges that alcohol leads to more teenage deaths than other drugs combined. Nevertheless, he insists that including alcohol in the campaign would only dilute its basic message, that kids should avoid illegal drugs.
That's hard to swallow, given federal studies showing that 67% of children who start drinking alcohol before age 15 end up using illicit drugs. And that adults who started drinking as children are nearly eight times more likely to use cocaine than those who did not.
That's why the House Appropriations Committee should pass an amendment by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), requiring McCaffrey to include underage drinking in his campaign's targets.