Teen drinking is not inevitable; 57 percent of high school seniors in Chisago County reported that they did not drink alcohol in the past 30 days, reducing their risk of alcohol related injury.
Teens report that alcohol is easy to get. Social sources, like family and friends, are the primary sources of alcohol for kids who drink. In a 2010 government survey of underage drinkers ages 12 to 20, 69 percent said they got alcohol without having to pay for it. Some were given alcohol by parents, other family, or friends; others took alcohol without permission.
We, as a community, can play a role in reducing teen access to alcohol and related harm. At home we can:
• Keep track of the alcohol in your home.
• Make sure teens can’t access it without your knowledge.
• Let your teen know that the minimum legal drinking age is 21, and that drinking can cause serious health and safety consequences to teens and legal consequences for a person who provides the alcohol or a place for underage drinking to happen.
• Talk to your kids about family rules regarding alcohol use and about what they should say and do if they are offered alcohol.
• Talk to the parents of your teen’s friends. Let them know that teen drinking poses unacceptable risks and that you do not want — or expect — anyone to allow your teen to drink alcohol.
In our community we can:
• Stand up and spread the word that we don’t want anyone serving alcohol to our teens or condoning teen drinking.
• Remind friends, neighbors, and all community members that the minimum drinking age is a policy that protects teens and keeps all teens safe.
• Encourage the school board, school principals, teachers, and coaches to continue to encourage youth to make the healthy, safe, and legal choice to not drink alcohol.
• Communicate with management at restaurants, town halls, and other venues where teen parties are held. Keep the message consistent, that the community does not want teens to have access to alcohol.
• Encourage local law enforcement to actively monitor teen parties. A noisy party may signal alcohol use; you will ask them to check it out.
• Tell local alcohol retailers that you don’t mind waiting while they check ID before selling alcohol. Limiting alcohol sales to legal purchasers is an important goal and worth the time it takes.
Together we can send the message to young people in our community that we want them to be safe and healthy, and that we care.
For more information about ways to keep our community healthy, visit www.cpyf.org and learn more about the Chisago County Underage Drinking Task Force and the Partners For a Drug Free Chisago County Coalition.
— Article by Melissa Vrudny, CPP, Prevention Specialist – Community Partnership