Park City officials say parents should be empowered to stop underage drinking | ParkRecord.com

Park City officials say parents should be empowered to stop underage drinking

Police chief: ‘Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse, both of these, have created tragedy in our community’

Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter speaks at a press conference Wednesday addressing the dangers of underage drinking and the responsibility of parents and communities to help eliminate the problem.

For Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, the reality is frightening.

Park City, he said, has a serious problem: On the whole, parents here are too permissive when it comes to their children experimenting with alcohol. They don't seem to understand that, with each sip, the bright futures their children hold are at risk of slipping away.

"We all want to see our kids grow to accomplish the things that they want to," he said. "We want them to be happy and successful, and we don't want alcohol to rob them of those opportunities. Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse, both of these, have created tragedy in our community."

Carpenter's remarks came Wednesday at a press conference put on by the Parents Empowered campaign announcing the next steps in its ongoing effort to curb underage drinking throughout Utah. The event, hosted in Park City by U.S. Ski & Snowboard — whose athletes will be highlighted in a statewide anti-youth drinking publicity push — featured a number of prominent officials who spoke about the severity of the problem and the importance of communities statewide rallying to overcome it.

In addition to Carpenter, officials such as Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Park City Mayor Jack Thomas and Luke Bodensteiner, athletic director of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, stepped to the podium to share stories of how underage drinking has affected them.

Cox, for instance, divulged that he lost a friend at a young age due to an alcohol-related accident. In the years since, he said, he has often wondered what more he could have done to prevent it. Thomas, who has five children, called the issue one that "resonates to my soul," and admitted his own failings as a parent when it came to preventing underage drinking.

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Thomas, remorseful, said none of his children ultimately developed problems associated with drinking, but he acknowledged that many well-meaning parents are less fortunate.

"I know that I was party to some risky behaviors, permissiveness that the Park City community seems to have," he said. "Somehow, we don't think that some of these issues relate to us, that we're above it. But we're not. We have bigger issues in this community than most other communities."

According to Parents Empowered, which is an effort funded by the Utah Legislature, nearly 30 percent of underage children who drink do so with parental permission. In contrast, children who don't imbibe say parental disapproval is the top reason they avoid alcohol.

The difference in outcomes among each group can be staggering. Parents Empowered's website states that studies show people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop addictions than those who wait until they are at least 20. Additionally, underage drinking has been linked to a number of behavioral issues and suicidal thoughts.

Carpenter said parents have the most important role to play in ensuring their children don't go down a dangerous path. He urged parents in Park City to take a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to alcohol and to enforce that position by taking active roles in their children's lives.

He added that while he was raising two kids in Park City, he made sure to monitor where they were and who they were with. He also formed relationships with their friends' parents, who had a clear understanding of his views on alcohol.

"They knew that I had expectations that if my kids came home with alcohol on their breath, there was going to be a problem," he said.

But statewide, parents can't solve the problem alone. Cox said it will take a consistent effort from every community in Utah to protect the hundreds of thousands of children who are faced with decisions about whether they want to try alcohol. The progress Parents Empowered has made so far is proof that it's possible.

"As a result of these campaigns, and as a result of these future campaigns, thousands of young people have avoided the effects of underage drinking," he said.

For more information about preventing underage drinking, visit parentsempowered.org.