NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Drinking hurts children and adolescents more than it does adults, the American Medical Association says in calling on television broadcasters to ban all alcoholic drink commercials before 10 p.m.
Twenty years of studies about underage drinking show a clear, consistent pattern, Richard Yoast, director of the AMA's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, said Tuesday.
``The use of alcohol before the brain is fully adult, age 20 or 21, causes long-term and possibly irreversible damage,'' he said.
Adolescent drinkers did worse than non-abusers of the same age on at least seven mental tests, including vocabulary, general information, memory and memory retrieval, he said.
The AMA house of delegates is meeting in New Orleans, where the study and the organization's recommendation was announced Monday.
In addition to keeping all beer, wine and liquor ads off the air before 10 p.m., the television networks and cable broadcasters should stop running alcohol commercials that use mascots and cartoon characters appealing to children, the AMA said.
Advertisers were unconvinced.
``We think it's an unjustified attack on a responsible industry. We are committed to responsible advertising,'' said Lisa Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Other studies have found that friends and family have far more effect than ads on young people's decisions about whether or not to drink, she said.
The Federal Trade Commission ``has looked at our ads time and time again and concluded that our ads are directed to adults,'' she said.
Beer and wine are widely advertised on television, and several national cable channels and hundreds of local stations accept commercials for distilled spirits. Broadcast networks have mostly refused to advertise hard liquor, even after liquor marketers lifted their own voluntary restriction on such advertising six years ago.
A study highlighted at the AMA meeting indicated that alcohol abuse may shrink teens' brains. That study found that the part of the brain that handles memory and learning was 10 percent smaller in 14- to 21-year-olds who abused alcohol than in those who didn't drink.
It also cited reports that children now first take their first drink on their own at the age of 12, on average, and that nearly 20 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds report binge drinking _ four or five drinks in a row.
``When you put it all together, it's a very devastating picture and very contrary to the picture that kids are young and therefore they're resilient,'' Yoast said.