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Monday, June 29, 2009

Florida Paying $3 Billion a Year in Underage Drinking Costs

Taxpayers Footing Almost 39% of Total Bill

Recently, the Florida Department of Children and Families released a new study entitled Economic Costs of Underage Drinking in Florida. Amongst its findings are that the statewide economic impact of underage alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, health care and other costs Floridians over $3 billion each year.

Violent crime linked to alcohol was society’s greatest cost, accounting for $316.3 million, or 48%, of total underage drinking costs.

Taking third place were traffic crashes, with a fiscal tab of $642.7 million for medical and emergency services, lost productivity, workplace and legal costs, property damage and other costs.

Other economic impacts detailed in the county-by-county report included:
• Unsafe sexual behavior - $291.1 million
• Fetal alcohol syndrome - $75.4 million
• Alcohol-related medical and other costs resulting from injuries — $202.5 million
• Suicides and attempted suicides - $48.3 million
• Alcohol abuse treatment - $2.8 million.

Six Florida counties alone were responsible for 52% of the total estimated cost: Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Duval. According to the study's authors, the higher costs were associated with higher crime and traffic crash rates in these counties.

The study revealed that most of the economic burden of alcohol abuse falls on those who do not abuse alcohol. Florida taxpayers bore 38.6% of the total costs.

The overall cost per youth was also computed by researchers, which averaged $627 per person under the age of 21 and $1,818 per youth between the ages of 14 and 20. These expenditures were the result of roughly 180 youth deaths and 71,602 injuries and other events directly ascribable to alcohol use by minors.

"This study shows that in addition to the human toll of underage drinking, there is also an economic cost that affects us all," said Bill Janes, DCF Assistant.

"We especially want to involve parents in our prevention efforts, because research shows that parents and other significant adults are the key factors in determining whether or not a teenager decides to drink," Janes continued. "Communities also have a role to play in protecting teens and promoting alcohol and drug-free lifestyles."

According to a 2008 survey of alcohol and drug use by Florida's middle and high school students, most do not drink and the number of those who do is on the decline. However, a cause for concern is that the percentage of those who reported drinking during the past month continues to exceed the national average - 37% compared to 29.3%.

The study provides a "blueprint" for Florida's state and local policy makers. "It has implications for law enforcement and the health care and insurance industries, as well as for health and social services agencies," Janes said.

Economic Costs of Underage Drinking in Florida was a State Epidemiology Workgroup project, a multidisciplinary group comprised of a range of experts from Florida. The study's corresponding author is Michael T. French, Ph.D., of the Treatment and Prevention Evaluation Group at the University of Miami's Comprehensive Drug Research Center. The study's cost estimates are for 2007.

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