Business leaders, government officials, community leaders and parents are coming together to decrease the amount of underage drinking by educating teens and parents about its dangers and prevalence.
The campaign, ParentsEmpowered.org, is a media and education campaign funded by the Utah Legislature. It is designed to prevent and reduce underage drinking in Utah by providing parents and guardians with information about the harmful effects of alcohol on the developing teen brain – along with proven methods for preventing underage alcohol use.
“The disturbing fact is that underage drinking is a serious problem in Utah,” Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said. “Heavy binge drinking begins as early as the sixth grade, and new scientific evidence proves underage drinking can cause permanent damage to a teen’s rapidly developing brain. As a result, the need for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives has never been greater.”
According to a survey given to Utah parents and youth by R & R Partners, a marketing company in Salt Lake City, 59 percent of Utah parents are unaware that binge drinking in Utah could begin at a young age. Parental disapproval of underage drinking is the No. 1 reason youths choose not to drink.
This research also showed that 40 percent of children who begin drinking before the age of 15 will become alcohol-dependent, and 67 percent will go on to try other illicit drugs. If teens wait until age 21 to drink, the odds of becoming alcohol-dependent drop to 7 percent.
The Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control is the lead agency for the campaign and is working in partnership with other state agencies and organizations including Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Parents setting clear rules will stop peer pressure every time,” said Art Brown, president of Utah’s chapter of MADD. “They have the most influence, but most are starting about two years too late. They need to set and stick to rules for the family and do so early.”
Many car dealerships have agreed to place tags on rearview mirrors in new and used cars that read “Warning: Children in mirror are closer to drinking alcohol than they appear.”
A similar message is to appear on 55 million grocery bags and posters in Associated Food Stores locations. ACE Disposal collection trucks will display the message: “Saying underage drinking is harmless is a load of garbage.”
Because many parents don’t understand the prevalence of this problem, these messages are being displayed to help raise awareness. Government officials and educational leaders said they hope this will encourage parental involvement and prevent underage drinking.