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Alcohol Ignites Sports Fans

Sports and alcohol go hand in hand, according to a Harvard study that shows fans binge drink more often than those who are not fans.

The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study says 53 percent of sports fans usually binge when they drink, compared with 41 percent of male and 37 percent of female nonfans.

Findings of the 1999 study, which was released Monday, surveyed more than 14,000 college students at 119 four-year colleges in 39 states. The study will be published in the January-February issue of Addictive Behaviors.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization that works to improve health care and reduce substance abuse, paid for the study.

The study defines binge drinkers as men who have five or more drinks in a row at least once within two weeks, or women who have four or more drinks.

Because of their heavier drinking, sports fans are more likely to experience problems including legal difficulties, sexual violence and problems with their schoolwork, the study says.

Henry Wechsler, one of the study's authors, said advertising is largely to blame.

"The alcohol industry places a large proportion of advertising around sporting events," Wechsler said. "This group of people is heavily marketed to for alcohol use."

Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, which represents the industry, said advertising does not cause problem drinking.

"The scientific evidence says advertising doesn't cause people who don't drink to drink," he said. "It doesn't cause people who drink to drink more."

The Harvard study also said bars and liquor stores target sports fans with specials and low-price promotions.

"Whether you win or lose, you're encouraged to drink," Wechsler said. "You cry in your beer if you lose and you celebrate by downing a few if you win."

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