Sample letter to Secretary Shalala

January 28, 1998

The Honorable Donna E. Shalala
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Shalala:

Thank you for your recent comments that alcohol advertising and sponsorship do not belong in college sports and that colleges should break the connection between sports and drinking. I agree that young people in junior high, high school or college should not be encouraged, by advertising or any other means, to start drinking alcohol for any reason.

Your call for members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to eliminate ties with alcoholic-beverage companies is timely and right on target. Colleges and universities across the country recognize abusive drinking as their most serious campus problem, related to a wide range of negative outcomes, including academic failures, crime and violence, harassment and assaults against women, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and substantial property damage.

A growing body of research suggests that adolescents, both male and female, who respond positively to beer ads are more likely to drink alcohol, drink heavily, or say they plan to drink as adults. Other research, including a study recently released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, demonstrates that children who begin drinking at earlier ages have a much greater likelihood of becoming alcoholic than those who defer their drinking to later years. Taken together, these findings suggest that alcohol advertising and promotions directed at young people can only increase the risks that young people face of becoming drinkers early in life and suffering a wide range of problems associated with alcohol.

Please continue to speak out about this issue and support congressional efforts to reduce campus alcohol problems. As you know, legislation has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1980) to limit alcohol advertising and sponsorships and strengthen alcohol prevention programs at institutions of higher learning. House Resolution 321 calls on college officials to adopt a code of principles aimed at creating a campus environment that is less conducive to abusive drinking. Both measures need your strong backing.

Thank you again for your leadership on this important issue.