Oregon group targets binge-drinking youths

UO, Lane County and others join to try to change culture

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Eugene group trying to reduce binge drinking by young people is calling on stores to stop advertising that appears to promote drinking games such as beer pong or tie alcohol sales to University of Oregon sports.

The call comes from the Eugene Prevention Coalition, an effort by Lane County, the university and other groups in a town known for rowdy parties and a hard-drinking culture.

Health officials say alcohol-related death rates in the county are twice the national average.

"High-risk alcohol use is very much tolerated in our community," said Lindsey Adkisson, a Lane County health analyst. "It's something that's considered a rite of passage for our young people."

The coalition cited a Safeway store southwest of the campus as being one of the first of 20 stores to tone down displays.

Manager Marc Carlson showed KVAL-TV a beer display before the Fiesta Bowl game on Thursday.

"Basically on a display like this, you might see some cups or some table tennis balls," store manager Marc Carlson said.

But the implements of beer pong are gone, replaced by "snacks and chips and those types of things on this aisle," Carlson said. "That would be a change that we made here."

State and federal grants are paying for the coalition's campaign, $180,000 a year over three years. The campaign aims to counteract what it calls community acceptance of binge drinking, which is associated with young people and can lead to lifelong alcohol problems.

"This is something I think is a community issue, and we really need to emphasize that this is not going to be acceptable," said Paul Shang, the university's dean of students.