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UA not part of anti-drinking campaign


Scott Andrew Taras
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Philosophy junior Jose Ramirez (left) and communication graphics junior Sean D'Addamio enjoy some beer last night at the Buffet, 539 E. Ninth St. The two frequent the Tucson bar two to three times every week.

By Ty Young
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 10, 1999

As an aggressive new advertising campaign describing the dangers of binge drinking reaches universities nationwide today, UA officials are confident that their current alcohol-related messages are clearly understood by students.

The national campaign, endorsed by 113 college campuses and run by 17 major newspapers, is focused upon the harsh realities of student binge drinking.

The University of Arizona will not be one of the schools to implement these advertisements.

According to Koreen Johannessen, director of Health Promotion and Preventative Services at the UA, the current campaign utilized by the UA for five years has been very effective towards educating students about the reality of campus drinking.

"What we discovered a few years ago was that students thought there was a lot more drinking than there really was," Johannessen said. "It (campus drinking) has been going down ever since."

Unlike the anti-binge drinking advertising that other universities will relate to their students, UA Health Promotions expresses actual data unique to this campus. Posters and flyers distributed on campus, and advertisements in the Arizona Daily Wildcat display these figures along with pictures of current UA students.

Each spring, UA Health Promotions staff members survey the campus concerning various alcohol-related issues.

The survey questions focus on the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed weekly, as well as activities involving alcohol.

According to the most recent survey, UA students consume one alcoholic beverage per week, down from two the previous year.

The strategy behind the campaign focuses on revealing the true levels of alcohol consumption at the UA. Students are encouraged to form their own opinions based on the information.

The national anti-binge drinking campaign differs in the overall attitude of the message. The advertisements are intended to paint an unhealthy picture of campus drinking, while Johannessen said the UA message is based on educating students.

"We are not trying to stop campus drinking, but rather informing students about the accurate numbers of students who drink," Johannessen said.

She added that the message of the advertising is to accurately inform students rather than portraying drinking as a bad choice.

"We try to be honest about the information. We're not going to say the majority when the difference is only one percent," said Carolyn Collins, UA Alcohol/Drug Prevention coordinator.

The advertising program, created by officials at Northern Illinois University, was first put into use at the UA in 1994. The UA was also the first school to receive federal funding and an evaluation team for the project.

Johannessen said that other universities, such as the University of Oregon and Western Washington University, have adopted the UA's informational campaigns to help educate their students about the realities of campus drinking.

She added that all of the schools that have adopted the plan have averaged a reported 18 percent decrease in student drinking.

Student Health Promotions also receives feedback from students about the actual advertising. Staff members survey students and gauge their reaction towards the students pictured, as well as the data incorporated.

"When we display the pictures to students, we ask them if they feel that they could be friends with them and relate to them," Collins said.

The national anti-binge drinking campaign comes on the heels of reports throughout the media detailing alcohol related deaths and injuries sustained on campuses nationwide.

Last year at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., two people died as result of alcohol consumption.

In another report, a Michigan State University student celebrating a birthday died after drinking 22 shots of liquor.

Johannessen and other Student Health Promotions workers hope that their alcohol informational campaign will help prevent occurrences like these at the UA.

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