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Dec. 12, 2005

Montgomery County: going in the right direction to prevent teenage drinking

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
Consider: studies have shown that alcoholics are four to six times more likely than non-alcoholics to have a parent with a drinking habit. Now, imagine what would happen if these parents openly offered their kids alcoholic drinks.

Unfortunately, this problem is not uncommon. Last month, Montgomery County began its second year of the "Parents Who Host, Lose the Most" campaign, headed by the Alliance on Underage Drinking, which plans to crack down on parents who help their children break the drinking age law. Parents who make alcohol available to minors can face fines between $1,000 and $1,500.

By offering alcohol to teens, parents not only help kids violate state law but also end up fueling a bad habit with countless negative consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, heavy drinking not only damages learning abilities but can also kill brain cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory.

Though some may argue that offering drinks to teenagers would kill curiosity at a young age, it could also do the opposite: spark a habit at a young age. Parents who offer drinks to their children are openly giving an opportunity to go on a wrong path the path of alcoholism. Ultimately, the parents should be held liable for their children's misguided actions.

Today, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds. A large percentage of these crashes have been linked to alcohol consumption. In 2003, close to a third of drivers in this age group who were involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. The statistic remains the same for Montgomery County: about a third of the 16 fatal crashes by drivers under 21 were alcohol-related.

Programs similar to "Parents Who Host Lose the Most" have been instituted in other states, such as Florida and Texas. Some states even adopted a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking, meaning that first-time violators could immediately suffer sever consequences. The results were clearly effective. In Maine, for example, after December 1994, when a zero tolerance policy was started, the ratio of young drivers in nighttime single-vehicle injury crashes (a common measure for alcohol-related crashes) versus daytime decreased by about five percent. Montgomery County, if it implements a stricter alcohol policy, could join the list of states that have reduced alcohol-related teenage accidents.

What's troubling is that close to 65 percent of teenagers admitted to getting alcohol from their family or friends, according to a survey by the Century Council. Taking these statistics into consideration, one can understand that Montgomery County is trying to stop the problem at its root. Though this major program won't cure the teenage drinking problem entirely, it is exactly what the county needs: a step in the right direction.

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  • Ha on December 12, 2005 at 2:05 PM
    It's a shame teenagers see alcohol as a conduit for having a good time. Heck, it's a shame ANYONE sees alcohol as a way to enjoy themselves. But the greatest crime is that people do not handle this on their own.
    What happened to the days when residents didn't need the county to step in and clean up the self-inflicted mess?
  • Anonymous on December 12, 2005 at 4:53 PM
    when your parents offer you alcohol, its in a much safer environment and in most cases, it ensures that you dont go overboard in your drinking
    my parents know that i have learned my own limits and they do not care how much i drink as long as i dont get myself into trouble
    implementing these new laws would have little if any effect since private drinking in the home would not be commonly reported
  • but wait on December 12, 2005 at 7:30 PM
    isn't it safer to drink at home with parental supervision than elsewhere and without? I think some of these parents are being responsible and acknowledging that teenagers drink. They are just trying to provide the safest possible way for their kids to do the inevitable.
    obviously, drinking should not be "the inevitable". that is why the campaign should target the kids, not the parents.
  • ... on December 12, 2005 at 8:23 PM
    65 percent of teenagers admitted to getting alcohol from their family AND friends. if you're talking about parents who provide their children with alochol, then the survey should be changed to ask if they get alochol from their family only, not friends. because if friends were excluded, the percent of teenagers getting alochol from family would decrease dramatically.
  • overrated on December 12, 2005 at 9:43 PM
    Its called SELF-CONTROL PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Learn how to grasp it!!!!!

    Why are yall so pressed to drink? Its not that serious!
  • Anonymous on December 13, 2005 at 6:26 PM
    So why does the government have to control every aspect of peoples' lives? If the parents think it's ok for them to drink and they want to, that's their business. Parents raise kids, not the government.
  • 06 on December 13, 2005 at 7:41 PM
    my family has gotten me drunk more than my friends. ha ha.
  • holler on December 13, 2005 at 9:19 PM
    Although I understand the law, i think its a little harsh, drinking a glass of wine with your parents is nothing, and i hardly know any parents that would give a case to their kid and tell them to have a good time. I personally think they should lower the drinking age, in Europe most drinking laws are set to 16-18, therefore kids arent as keen to get drunk and party wih alcohol all of the time. if we lowered our drinking ages then kids would know that drinking isent suppost to be taken overboard...also in Europe and other countries, there are less alcoholics because getting drunk isent such a big deal because having alcohol is normal. Also, having one glass of beer a day helps your heart and your body.

    thank you
  • lex on December 14, 2005 at 10:18 PM
    This article seems to blur drunk driving and parents who "host" drinking. To me, hosting implies the drunk kids will stay there. Obviously drinking and driving is bad, I'd like to hear more hard facts on why responsible parental supervision is bad. It says that this type of activity could " kill curiosity at a young age, it could also do the opposite: spark a habit at a young age". I feel this is the center of the issue and more statistics are necessary to make a valid argment for either side. Also the article seems to imply that parents who host are themselves alcoholics, this is not a fair assumption.
  • Elliott Wolf (View Email) on December 17, 2005 at 12:17 AM
    As long as alcohol remains ingrained in american culture, students are going to be introduced to it in somehow and in some way. Many parents understandably come to the conclusion that it is better for them to introduce it and facilitate the admittedly dangerous behaviors their children will engage in rather than to leave it to strangers or irresponsible teenagers. It seems to me that this law will only serve to prevent students from being taught about alcohol in a safe and protective setting and push the behavior underground even more.

    Until people admit that it is not underage drinking itself (or drinking period) that is bad, the situation cannot improve and the real problems associated with drinking will continue. There is absolutely no reason why any person of any reasonable age (18+ as it is in Europe) should be criticized for drinking responsibly. There is absolutley no reason why a parent should be criticized, or fined because they are teaching their children how to behave responsibly and monitoring them to ensure safety, and not simply enforcing draconian and ill-conceived laws. Students will drink, either in high school or in college, and it is up to parents to teach them how to do it responsibily. The government shouldn't interfere with that and parents shouldn't be dissuaded by this law.

    Blair '04
    Duke '08

  • To Holler on December 18, 2005 at 8:33 AM
    Don't forget, that Russia has similar relaxed attituted towards teens drinking (and drinking in general), and they have perhaps the highest percentage of alcholics in the world.
  • Anonymous on December 19, 2005 at 6:00 PM
    Great post Elliott. But I want to take it a step further. If the parent thinks they are old enough, and they drink responsibly, why should the government intervene? They are there to protect the rights of citizens, and unless these kids drive after drinking they are harming absolutely no one. Also, why is the age 21? You are supposed to be an adult at 18. You can give your life to your country, be executed, own property, etc. You can even smoke a cigerrette, but you can't have a glass of wine or can of beer. Disgusting.
  • holler again on December 20, 2005 at 8:44 AM
    haha, russia also is one of the most underdeveloped and poor countries in the world. it has tons of unemployed people, and an army of teens with no future. not a very good example.
  • Joey Heath (View Email) on January 27, 2006 at 10:22 AM
    i think that it should be lowered. If you can go fight for your country when your 18 then you ought to be able to drink. Even though the legal age to drink is 21 there are kids drinking at age 14.
  • ^^^ on May 10, 2006 at 9:02 AM
    like she said.. rock on.
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