Take stand against underage drinking
May 2, 2007
Understandably, the recent shooting at Virginia Tech rekindled many parents’ fears about random violence on school campuses, but there are other potentially lethal dangers lurking even closer to home.
Last month, a North Summit teen died of alcohol poisoning in the company of a group of friends who watched helplessly as their peer slipped into unconsciousness.
Alcohol is a more imminent threat to local youth than a school shooting, and is even a bigger problem than drug abuse. According to parentsempowered.org, a campaign to stop underage drinking sponsored by the Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and Utah Prevention, "alcohol kills more young people than all other illegal drugs combined." The group also claims that more than half of all Utah parents are unaware kids as young as 12 are drinking.
In fact, Summit County teens may be more prone to alcohol abuse than many of their urban counterparts. According to the New York Times, a recent federal study uncovered an alarming trend that binge drinking is more prevalent in rural parts of the West than in the big cities on either coast
In particular, the study lists Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas as the worst offenders. It may come as no surprise then that alcohol claimed a victim in North Summit, which shares a border with Wyoming. But it is a tragic warning nonetheless.
With spring end-of-school celebrations just a couple weeks away, it is time for communities throughout Summit County to rededicate themselves to preventing teen alcohol abuse. That means merchants must be diligent about checking IDs, parents must communicate with their children about the potential dangers of alcohol abuse and the legal system must take firm action against adults who supply alcohol to kids.
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Most importantly, teens need to be informed not just about the legal ramifications of drinking but the very real health risks. Those who were with the Coalville boy who died last month, like many young people, were probably unable to distinguish mere drunkenness from alcohol poisoning until it was too late. Or they may have been afraid to ask for help for fear of punishment. Whatever went through their heads, though, must be remedied.
This week, the parentsempowered.org coalition is putting hangtags on all alcoholic beverages sold at state liquor stores. The tags encourage parents to take a strong stand against underage drinking. And while mom and dad may not have the final say on whether their kid chooses to drink alcohol at the next party, parentsempowered says they are still the biggest influence.