Underage Drinking Costs Billions

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COLUMBIA - An officer who patrols downtown says Columbia police are seeing more and more high school students getting intoxicated.

"We do see a trend that perhaps some of our high school students are starting to lead into, it's almost like a pre-college effect," Sgt. Candy Cornman said.

A survey by a research center that specialized in under-aged drinking Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found the drinking habits of high school students are about the same in Missouri as they are nationwide.

Nationally, 72.5 percent of high school students surveyed said they have tried alcohol at some point in their life. In comparison, 70.5 percent of Missouri high school students responded they had tried alcohol.

24.2 percent of high school students responded they drank more than five drinks in a row (binge drinking), but 25.3 percent of Missouri students responded they had consumed the amount.

Michelle Baumstark, Director of Community Relations for Columbia Public Schools, said Columbia Public Schools has integrated underage drinking education into its curriculum and holds special events throughout the year to teach students about the dangers of underage drinking.

Underage drinking cost the United States an estimated $62 billion in 2010. The $1.4 billion spent in Missouri is enough to pay for more than 75,000 students' tuition, room, and board at the University of Missouri for an entire year, at in-state rates.

Of all alcohol sold in Missouri, an estimated 18.6 percent is consumed by underage drinkers.

In 2009, 47 people were killed as a result of underage drinking and driving. In contrast, Maryland, which has a similar population, underage drinkers consumed 11 percent of alcohol sales and 24 people died from underage drinking and driving.

Despite those statistics, the percentage of alcohol consumed by those underage in Missouri is relatively low compared to surrounding states:

• Missouri 18.6%
• Illinois 13.1%
• Iowa 26.4%
• Kansas 25.5%
• Nebraska 25.6%
• Arkansas 21.5%
• Kentucky 16.5%
• Tennessee 15.8%
• Oklahoma 20.4%