The Placer County Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse Prevention Program is reminding parents, teens and young adults to remain diligent against underage drinking and binge alcohol consumption, especially during the holidays. Students, both high school and college, are out for annual holiday breaks. And while the holidays bring many festive occasions, they can also bring alcohol, and teens may find themselves at risk to start drinking or in situations where underage drinking is taking place.
Alcohol misuse and binge drinking by teens is a national problem with no single solution. Yet communities and families can take powerful actions to lessen its tragic impacts. Citizens should report stores that sell alcohol to underage buyers. Parents can help teens navigate the mixed messages they receive about alcohol through thoughtful discussions and listening to teen concerns. Parents should set clear expectations and take underage drinking seriously. Young adults should be reminded of their responsibility as role models to teens as well as being made aware of the personal and legal risks they take if they provide alcohol to underage siblings and high school friends.
The Placer ‘Parents Who Host Lose The Most’ campaign, a partnership of health, law enforcement, school, businesses, and community organizations, has been raising parental awareness of the multifaceted dangers of underage drinking. Most parents are unaware of the rates of underage drinking, and that alcohol affects a teen’s developing brain much differently than an adult brain, and that underage drinking seriously increases the risks of alcoholism later in life. Additionally, many parents are unaware of the legal consequences of providing alcohol to minors or allowing teen alcohol consumption to take place in their homes.
Key points of the campaign
- Among those who start drinking alcohol before age 15, over 40 percent will become alcohol-dependent at some time in their lives, compared with 7 percent of those who wait until age 21;
- Parents are often out of touch with their child’s alcohol use. Alcohol use starts earlier than most parents expect average age is 13. Only 31 percent of parents of 15-16 year olds believe their child had a drink in the past year, compared to the 60 percent of teens in that age group who reported drinking;
- Drunk driving isn’t the only risk. Underage gatherings with alcohol are associated with property damage, violence, drug use, accidents, indiscreet sex, sexual assault, and alcohol poisoning; and
- It is against the law to provide alcohol to teens. Adult providers can be prosecuted. Also, parents do not want other adults allowing their child to drink.
Many other counties have inquired about Placer’s innovative Responsible Parent Host Pledge. The pledge was created as a tool to help families discuss and monitor underage drinking. The Responsible Host Pledge is a parental commitment to not allow underage drug or alcohol use in their home and to actively chaperone youth gatherings at their residence. Pledges are turned into schools, County Health and Human Services, or the local law enforcement. Participating homes have phone numbers and address entered into a countywide searchable database. Parents are able to access the database to see if a residence has been listed as a Responsible Host home. Parents are encouraged to always call the hosting parent(s) to verify the occasion, party location, and the presence of adult supervision.
Since the ‘Parents Who Host Lose the Most’ program’s kickoff last spring, the messages about parental awareness of teen alcohol use has been repeated in many forums.
- PWH banners hanging at high school home football games;
- School Resource Officers talking with high school health classes about the law and parental 1iability they provide alcohol to minors;
- On-going promotion through Town Hall Forums;
- Information about the program being included with report cards and in class schedules;
- Addressing parents at many school and non-school functions;
- Parent Project facilitators present information about the program to parent groups; and
- Regular mention in school newsletters and school and law enforcement websites.
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