COLUMBUS - A new state panel focusing on childhood drinking plans to conduct five hearings across the state to develop recommendations for how Ohio and its communities can better respond to the problem.
A hearing in northwest Ohio, most likely Findlay, is planned for sometime in October with a final report expected in March.
"This is not a panel to determine if there is a problem," said Toledo native Gary Tester, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.
"We know that childhood drinking and underage drinking are issues of concern to the state of Ohio."
The panel held a press conference yesterday featuring first lady Hope Taft.
The panel could not enforce its findings, but its recommendations could lead to passage of legislation affecting such issues as the criminal penalties associated with serving alcohol to those under the legal drinking age of 21.
A survey of Lucas County youths recently indicated that alcohol use has risen only slightly, but Jay Salvage, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, found some cause for alarm in data he has gathered.
"Eighty percent of high school seniors report that they had used alcohol in the past year," he said. "Far more students reported using 11 or more times last year than reported they hadn't used at all."