By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
October 24, 2014
Ask what underage drinking is and most people will say it involves partying college freshmen or high schoolers getting fake IDs. But according to statistics from the NC Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Commission, 29% of NC middle school students have already had alcohol at least once. Statistics also show that one young person dies per week in North Carolina due to alcohol-related accidents.
The ABC Commission states that underage drinking costs North Carolina about $1.5 billion annually. In 2009, an estimated 737 teen pregnancies were attributable to underage drinking and an estimated 60 homicides, 26,800 nonfatal violent crimes and 67,400 property crimes were also attributable to underage drinking.
Alarming figures such as these are the reason that the ABC Commission will launch a media campaign in November to publicize the North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking.
The ABC Commission has focused on reducing underage drinking as one of its key issues this year. Commission chairman Jim Gardner met with leaders and media across the state late last year to publicize the initiative. Gardner said, “The problem is very serious—literally life and death—and the solution cannot be a quick-fix. …I have been very pleased with the support that we already have received from industry, public health advocacy groups and from other governmental leaders. This must be a joint effort and a long-term one to make the difference that we want to make. …The costs of underage drinking are too great to ignore. …The time to work together for a meaningful change is now.”
The Commission will review legislation related to underage drinking and advocate for stringent enforcement of existing laws for businesses that sell to underage youth.
Initiative co-chairman Luther Snyder says that the media awareness campaign will attempt to change the “culture” that underestimates the seriousness of underage drinking and enables or even encourages it. The media campaign will target middle-school age children and their parents. Snyder says that many underage drinkers have had their first drink by age 13, many times finding the alcohol in their own homes.
The ABC Commission’s statewide surveys of adults and children surprisingly revealed the children were more aware of the seriousness and prevalence of the problem than the adults. The adults also responded that they did not feel equipped to discuss the issue with their children. The multimedia campaign will not only attempt to reach children with the message of the dangers of drinking, but will give their parents the tools for addressing the issue.
Parents can stay informed about the progress of the North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking by signing up for emails at http://www.reduceunderagedrinking.com
Facts on underage drinking from alcoholpolicyMD.com
Approximately 10 million American youth under the age of 21 drink alcohol. Nearly half of them drink to excess, consuming five or more drinks in a row, one or more times in a two-week period.
Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by high school seniors, and its use is increasing. Boys usually try alcohol for the first time at just 11 years old, while the average age for American girls’ first drink is 13.
Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes, the leading cause of death among teenagers.
Alcohol use contributes to youth suicides, homicides and fatal injuries—the leading causes of death among youth after auto crashes.
Alcohol abuse is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students.
Alcohol is a major factor in unprotected sex among youth, increasing their risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.