Saturday, June 12, 2004

Kids drinking can be adult problem


The "Parents Who Host Lose the Most" campaign brings a twist to its message about the dangers of underage drinking - it isn't always the kids who need to be targeted, sometimes it's the parents.

The local campaign, run by Ohio Parents for Drug Free Youth, targets parents who serve alcohol at the parties they throw for their teenagers. "Parents Who Host" educates parents about the Ohio law: Serving minors is illegal and if you get caught doing it, you can go to jail. Similar laws apply in Kentucky. While the campaign seems to be an obvious initiative, it is a necessary one because of misguided parents who treat drinking as a rite of passage for graduating high school students.

Ohio Parents Executive Director Patricia Harmon said, "Parents think they are doing the right thing by serving alcohol under their own roof. They feel that it is safer under their own supervision." The campaign's message seeks to overturn parents' ideas on "safe drinking" and to educate them about the consequences of breaking the law. It is important for the parents to be role models for their teenagers, not "one of the guys."

When young people drink alcohol and drive, results often are deadly. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in 2002, 29 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking alcohol. Not only that, medical studies have shown alcohol inhibits physical and social development in people under 21 years old. Also, parents who serve alcohol to other people's children could expose themselves to lawsuits.

In order to inform the public, the campaign distributes fact sheets detailing laws concerning drinking, parent tips for hosting parties and sending their children to parties, and direct letters to superintendents of school districts. There is also a radio ad.

The campaign has been successful over its five-year history, as more parents are hosting alcohol-free parties, organizers say. And that's the point. Parents should be there for their kids, to support them and to guide them, but they should not supply the alcohol before the true rite of passage has come - when their children turn 21 and can legally buy the drinks for themselves.

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