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NEW YORK -- A major substance abuse think tank has acknowledged that its alarming claim -- that youths ages 12 to 20 consume 25 percent of all alcohol in the United States -- was based on a flawed analysis, but said the figure would hold up if other factors are added.
The alcohol industry first challenged the claim, and the federal agency whose survey was used for the think tank's report studied the data and agreed the consumption figure was actually 11.4 percent.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse acknowledged yesterday that due to an oversight it had not made a necessary adjustment when analyzing data from the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.
It said that using the adjustment would bring the figure down to 11.4 percent, but added that it believed that percentage was low due to underreporting by the teens being surveyed; the fact that the survey doesn't account for binge drinking; and the fact that children under 12 weren't surveyed.
"Whether children and teens drink 15, 25 or 30 percent of the alcohol consumed," the center insisted in a statement, "the reality is that America has an underage drinking epidemic."
That center used that 1998 survey to calculate the total number of drinks consumed by 12- to 20-year-olds as a proportion of all adults. The 1998 survey was the most recent available when the center began its analysis.
The report found that those under 20 drank 63,230 alcoholic beverages, an average of 0.9 a day and slightly more than 25 percent of the 251,194 alcoholic drinks consumed by the sample as a whole.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States immediately called the center's estimate "flat-out wrong" because 38 percent of the respondents were ages 12 to 20 when in fact that age group is only 15 percent of the total U.S. population.