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Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking

About the Call to Action

"Alcohol remains the most heavily abused substance by America's youth. We can no longer ignore what alcohol is doing to our children. This Call to Action is exactly that - a call to every American to join with the Surgeon General in a national effort to address underage drinking early, continuously, and in context of human development. Underage drinking is everybody's problem - and its solution is everyone's responsibility."
Acting Surgeon General Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H

What is the Call to Action?

  • Consistent with other Surgeon General Calls to Action, this science-based document seeks to stimulate action in all sectors of society to solve a major public health problem. It is supported by specific action steps to achieve the goals of the Call to Action at the national, state, and community levels.

Why is the Surgeon General issuing this Call to Action to all Americans?

  • Alcohol is the drug of choice among American adolescents, used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Although there has been a significant decline in tobacco and illicit drug use among teens, underage drinking has remained at consistently high levels.
  • Young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol problems later in life than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older.
  • New research indicates that alcohol may harm the developing adolescent brain.
  • There are approximately 11 million underage drinkers in the United States. Nearly 7.2 million (18.8 percent) are considered binge drinkers and more than 2 million (6 percent) are classified as heavy drinkers. By age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had a drink.
  • As they get older, the chance that young people will use alcohol grows. Over 11 percent of 12-year-old children (6th graders) say that they have used alcohol at least once. By age 13, that number doubles. By age 14 (8th grade), 41 percent of children have had at least one drink, and nearly 20 percent say they have been drunk at least once.

Who is the Call to Action for?

The Call to Action calls upon every member of society to recognize the severity of the underage drinking problem in the United States and work to prevent and reduce alcohol use by children and adolescents to protect them from the negative effects of underage drinking.

What is in the Call to Action?

  • The Call to Action is organized into four sections that provide a public health approach to prevent and reduce underage drinking:
    • Section 1 provides an overview of the scope of the underage drinking problem in the United States.
    • Section 2 describes alcohol use and its relationship to and impact on adolescent development.
    • Section 3 describes the framework for prevention and reduction of alcohol use and alcohol disorders in adolescents.
    • Section 4 delineates strategies for action that can lead to improved interaction, communication, and cooperation to prevent and reduce underage drinking.

Suggested Citation:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2007.