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Lisa Erk, Communications Director
A Matter of Degree        
Sherry Pinkstaff
Fenton Communications
Parents Very Concerned about High-Risk Drinking; 73 Percent Agree that Alcohol Producers Should End their Association with Spring Break
Chicago, IL – All-you-can-drink specials, booze cruises, “ … endless nights of music, partying, sex and anything but textbooks …” may be the perfect lure to college students planning their spring break, but a poll released today by the American Medical Association's A Matter of Degree program shows that 91 percent of parents say it's time to stop spring break marketing and promotional practices that promote dangerous drinking.
The majority of parents (56 percent) are completely unaware that tour companies market spring break destinations directly to college students, emphasizing heavy drinking and sex. These promotions arrive by email, campus advertisements and direct mail. Eighty-eight percent of parents and 71 percent of adults say they are outraged by this practice. The study of 500 U.S. residents 21 years of age and older was conducted in late February by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates of Washington, DC. Margin of error is +/- 4.2% at the 95th confidence interval level.
More than 80 percent of parents said they were concerned about college students drinking alcohol during spring break. Topping the list of concerns were students having unprotected sex (71 percent); students driving while intoxicated or with a drunken driver (70 percent); and female students getting raped (68 percent).
Irresponsible Industry Promotions
“Unfortunately, spring break is no longer an innocent respite from the rigors of academics, it's potentially life threatening,' says J. Edward Hill, MD, AMA chair-elect. “The tourism and alcohol industries promote heavy drinking and sex, creating an environment that can lead to rape, fatal injuries and death by alcohol poisoning. We agree with parents that we must put an end to these promotions that target students, most of whom are underage.”
One such promotion, created by the Panama City Beach (Florida) Convention and Visitors Bureau, has appeared in campus newspapers throughout the country. This 12-page insert consists of spring break advertisements from hotels and clubs, many featuring an endless supply of alcohol. One example reads, “Plus, pay 5 bucks, and you can drink all the beer you can handle – every day.”
Revelry to Tragedy
A Panama City Beach spring break trip turned to tragedy for 19-year-old Andrew Guglielmi, who died April 2, 2000, after falling from a third-floor hotel balcony after a day of partying. Andrew's father remembers his son's academic and athletic accomplishments, and the 11 days spent at his bedside in the hospital intensive care unit.
“Over those days we watched as a steady stream of bleary eyed parents arrived from all over the country to see their sons or daughters lying in a coma,” Frank Guglielmi recalls. “Many of them never got to see their children before they died. It was devastating. Parents and students need to recognize that there is a dark side to the spring break madness they see on MTV.”
A Problem of Underage Drinking
Eighty-eight percent of parents said they think that spring break is primarily a problem of underage drinking, because many college students are younger than the legal drinking age of 21, and 61 percent believe that underage students are more likely to drink than 21-year-olds. In addition to U.S. spring break destinations, American tour companies, in partnership with alcohol producers, promote destinations outside the country where the drinking age is 18 - a key attraction. 
Regarding popular Mexico spring destinations such as Cancun where the legal drinking age is 18:
  • 77 percent of adults and 68 percent of parents say that alcohol companies are using spring break in Mexico to introduce underage students to their products;
  • 82 percent of adults and 70 percent of parents agree that children even younger than 18 are drinking; and
  • The beer and liquor industries say that they are not promoting underage drinking by encouraging alcohol use at spring break locations in Mexico, but 64 percent of parents agree that this practice takes advantage of American youth under 21 and influences them to drink.
Additional Survey Findings
Parents support measures to reduce high-risk drinking:
  • 85 percent would limit admission to bars and nightclubs to adults 21 and older;
  • 99 percent say that bar owners should be required to train their staff to better recognize underage or intoxicated persons; 
  • 92 percent think that bar owners should be doing more to enforce the 21-year-old drinking age; and 
  • 70 percent of parents say they are unwilling to pay for their child's spring break.
Alternative Spring Breaks A Growing Trend
The study found that 94 percent of parents would require colleges to actively encourage students to consider spring break options that emphasize community service. All 10 universities of A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking among College Students (AMOD), support alternative spring break activities for their students.  This year, for example, Lehigh University is supporting four alternative spring break trips, two of which work with the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge. Florida State University offers Alternative Break Corps, which organizes spring break alternatives and travel to such destinations as Panama and the Ukraine.