NEW YORK, OCT. 17 -- A survey of schoolchildren indicates that wine coolers have found a receptive market among teen-agers, who fail to see even daily use of the alcoholic beverages as harmful.
The Weekly Reader survey found that 80 percent of seventh through 12th graders reported that their friends drink wine coolers. And nearly half of sixth graders said there is peer pressure to try them.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.'s fall Statistical Bulletin, issued Friday, cited the survey information along with statistics from several sources that it assembled for a report on drug and alcohol abuse.
"Even more troubling for the public's long-term health is that the proportion of elementary school children who believe that the daily use of alcohol or wine coolers by their contemporaries could cause 'great harm' decreased with each succeeding grade," the report said.
Pupils as young as fourth graders were surveyed.
The editor of the Statistical Bulletin, Charles Arnold, said he was encouraged by Weekly Reader statistics showing that an increasing percentage of schoolchildren recognize alcohol, marijuana and tobacco as drugs. In 1983, 20 percent of fourth graders and 17 percent of sixth graders said cigarettes are a drug; by 1987, the figures was 37 percent for both groups.
However, there appeared to be confusion among children about the alcoholic nature of wine coolers. While 50 percent of fourth graders and 44 percent of sixth graders said beer, wine and liquor are drugs, only 21 percent of fourth to sixth graders recognized wine coolers as drugs.
In August, California's Wine Institute, representing 517 California wineries, voluntarily established guidelines on advertising of coolers, saying that the ads should avoid "having a particular appeal to persons below the legal drinking age."
Wine coolers, which have been on the market since 1981, combine wine, fruit juice and carbonated water. Their alcohol content exceeds 5 percent, making them generally stronger than beer.
The report also contained federal statistics from a 1986 survey of high school seniors, showing that 91.3 percent have tried alcohol, and just under 5 percent said they had consumed alcohol daily over the previous month.
Alcohol use was highest in the Northeast and Midwest, lower in the West and lowest in the South.
The report said that 68 percent of high school seniors had tried cigarettes, 51 percent had tried marijuana, 17 percent had tried cocaine and one percent had tried heroin.