WASHINGTON— For the second time this year, a major study has shown declines in underage drinking rates, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. The Monitoring the Future Survey, jointly released Monday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan, reported “some important declines in adolescent alcohol use occurred in 2002” including “sizable drops” in the proportion of 8th, 10th and 12th grade students having any alcohol to drink in the past year and in the past 30 days. According to the authors, the survey provides “much good news for the nation,” as the declines in alcohol consumption represent “continuations of a longer-term pattern, especially among 8th grade students.” Survey responses indicate that alcohol use among 8th graders within a 30-day period has fallen from a 1996 high of 26 percent to 20 percent by 2002, as well as a significant decline in the proportion of students who have drank at any time in their lifetimes. Major declines were also noted in excessive drinking in all three student groups. “Underage drinking remains a serious problem, but these downward trends are very encouraging,” said Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy. “Distillers are committed to supporting effective programs that are focused on the real problems. The research is very clear – parents and peers are the key influences over a youth’s decision to drink. The industry will continue to work with communities to get parents the tools they need to teach their children about responsible decision making.” The Monitoring the Future Survey comes five months after the federally-endorsed Pride Survey reported that the percentage of students grades 6-12 who reported drinking alcohol in the past year has dropped to its lowest level in 15 years. Conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future has tracked substance abuse among American high school students for 28 years. In 2002, approximately 44,000 students, grades 8, 10 and 12 representing 400 secondary schools across the country, participated in the survey.