Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season!

‘Tis the season … to make sure we’re talking about alcohol with our kids

College students are home for the holidays. High schoolers are finding themselves in empty houses while parents are at work or doing last-minute holiday shopping. Adults are feeling celebratory.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous times of the year.

Data overwhelmingly show that December means greater exposure to alcohol for our youth—and the myriad consequences that come with it, including assault, unplanned sexual activity, alcohol poisoning, and impaired driving. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average number of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver rose 34% during the Christmas and New Year period alone.)

So while we’re gathered ‘round the fire with loved ones, what can we do to keep our kids and communities safer?

Set an example. A new report shows young people are very aware of how much their parents drink, and it affects their own relationship with alcohol. During the holidays, it’s important for our kids to see that we can celebrate without alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, don’t drive. Model riding with a sober driver.

Talk to your kids—and ask the tough questions. What are your kids doing while they’re home from college? Who are they spending time with? Talking to them about alcohol consumption and being clear about your expectations – underage drinking is dangerous, illegal, and unacceptable — is key. (Here are some great tips for how to talk to teens about alcohol. For example, don’t “lecture” and opt for open-ended questions.)

Share the data. Alcohol impairs judgment, and kids who drink are more likely to become involved in car crashes, be more sexually active, do worse in school, experience and/or cause physical violence, and abuse alcohol as adults.  You can share some other important facts about alcohol with your kids when the time is right.

Don’t drink and drive. Stay sober, or find a safe way home. It’s really that easy.

Don’t host or allow your child to attend an underage drinking party. It’s not safe and it’s illegal. It’s that simple.

We know delaying alcohol use as long as possible will decrease the chances our kids will develop problems associated with alcohol later in life. Setting an example, talking to them early, and sharing information can go a long way in making sure alcohol has no place in the lives of our children.

 

Tis the Season

Hidalgo County Sees Groundswell of Smoke Free Ordinances

“Community buy-in.” That’s the phrase Gilda Bowen uses to describe the wave of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances recently passed in communities throughout the county. Bowen is the Tobacco Coordinator for the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention Cessation Coalition (TPCC).

When the Hidalgo County TPCC formed in February of 2014, only one smoke-free ordinance had passed within the county. Today, 17 communities are 100% smoke-free.

“Even though there are separate cities in the county, the Valley is like a large community,” said Bowen. “So every time a city passed one, it encouraged another to take it up.”

She credits the combination of grassroots efforts and support from American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Texans Standing Tall, and other organizations for their success.

“It took research and planning from the AHA and ACS combined with a lot of one-on-one meetings to convince civic leaders that their communities wanted this,” Bowen added.

The movement built up slowly, with the cities of Edinburg, Pharr and Mission creating smoke-free ordinances from 2014-2016. Then in 2017, momentum took over, with at least one ordinance a month being passed.

Having coalition members committed to creating smoke-free communities was the major factor in making Hidalgo County virtually smoke-free. Every agenda, handout, or email from members included updates on what was happening in cities. So when McAllen had a public hearing, they had over 200 people show up.

The coalition realizes that even with this success, their work is not over.

“There will always be more work, there will always be opportunities,” said Mrs. Bowen. “We hope the community is proud and will take ownership of some projects to continue working on enforcement and implementation.”

Texans Standing Tall understands that passing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free ordinances is hard work, but we also believe that Texas cities are up to the challenge of implementing changes that help create healthier, safer communities – Gilda Bowen and the Hidalgo County TPCC are living proof of that. If you’re interested in learning more about passing a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross at sross@TexansStandingTall.org.

Tis the Season

Drinking Alcohol Raises Cancer Risk

Alcohol is a “definitive” risk factor for cancer, according to a statement released this month by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). 

According to ASCO, minimizing excessive exposure of alcohol has important implications for cancer prevention. In its statement, ASCO noted that alcohol consumption is causally associated with oropharyngeal (throat) and laryngeal (voicebox) cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. However, alcohol may also be a risk factor for other cancers, including pancreatic and stomach cancers.

Researchers looked at several studies that found a strong correlation between alcohol and cancer.  They concluded that 3.5% of all cancer-related deaths were due to alcohol consumption.  They further concluded that in 2012, 5.5% of new cancer occurrences and 5.8% of all cancer deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption.

“The importance of alcohol drinking as a contributing factor to the overall cancer burden is often underappreciated,” the organization said in its statement. “Associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverages.”

Another recent study shows that teens aged 14-17 are less likely to drink if they know about the link between alcohol and cancer. Unfortunately, most aren’t actually aware of the connection. To help create healthier, safter communities, Texans Standing Tall believes its especially important to share this new research so young people gain a better understanding of the consequences of alcohol consumption.

Tis the Season

“Fraternities must change.”

The national fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon took the bold initiative this month of announcing a ban on alcohol and other substances at all of its 215 chapters.

“Sigma Phi Epsilon and our peers have unfortunately earned a reputation for being organizations that promote alcohol consumption, misogyny and violence,” CEO Brian Warren said. “For SigEp, there can be no more discussion about maintaining that status quo. Fraternities must change.”

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49. This is a serious public health issue that deserves our attention.

Over the last few weeks, many universities have taken steps to combat the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, alcohol-related behaviors associated with Greek life.  The most recent—and closest to home—is the suspension of all Greek activity at Texas State University after the death of a 20-year-old pledge to a fraternity.

Texans Standing Tall is encouraged by the movement within the Greek community to work to end the normalization of alcohol for teenagers and young college students. Rather than supporting a narrative that claims alcohol use is “just a part of college life,” it’s important to remind students that college is a time for them to learn, grow, and develop skills for creating a bright and healthy future – that is the college experience we want them to strive for.

Tis the Season

Engage for Community Change: New Website

In 2016, Texans Standing Tall received a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to conduct a statewide assessment to help identify potential areas of collaboration between the traffic safety community and substance use prevention coalitions, and to develop an interactive tool to help connect coalitions and traffic safety experts.

This month, after conducting interviews with more than 50 prevention coalition leaders and traffic safety experts, analyzing findings, and collaborating to build an interactive web site, Texans Standing Tall launched Engage for Community Change.

On the website, people looking to connect with coalitions can search for one another by location, community type, or areas of focus. The goal is to help coalitions and communities leverage scarce resources for addressing problems in their communities that stem from underage alcohol and other substance abuse.

Coalitions have been integral to the passage of city social host ordinances that hold people accountable for underage drinking parties that occur in their homes or on their property. Texas leads the nation in the number of drunk driving crashes. Coalitions can have a potentially huge impact on reducing impaired driving, and we know that this tool can serve to assist businesses, agencies, nonprofits, and concerned citizens in making our communities safer.

Through the Engage for Community Change project, Texans Standing Tall hopes to help increase collaboration between coalitions and traffic safety experts in the state of Texas. If you have any questions or want your organization to be included in the project, please contact Kaleigh Becker, Research & Program Specialist, via email at kbecker@texansstandingtall.org or at 512-442-7501.

Tis the Season

Texans Standing Tall Takes on D.C.

Last month, staff from Texans Standing Tall had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to help spread the message of prevention! TST’s own Sachin Kamble and Atalie Nitibhon spent a week meeting with elected officials and representatives of many substance use and mental health organizations.

Atalie and Sachin at the offices of National Council for Behavioral Health.

One highlight of the week was a visit to the offices of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Texans Standing Tall had the opportunity to speak with SAMHSA experts about prevention’s role in addressing behavioral health. Kana Enomoto, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of SAMHSA, reaffirmed the importance of preventing alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Dr. Priscilla Clark, Deputy Director of the Center for Mental Health Services, and Kana Enomoto, Acting Deputy Assistance Secretary, from SAMHSA field questions regarding the current behavioral health system in the United States.

During the “Texas Tuesday Coffee” session, Sachin was able to meet Sen. Ted Cruz. Sachin shared his personal journey with his struggles with excessive alcohol use. Sachin discussed what Texans Standing Tall does in the state and the importance of prevention. The senator was very receptive and acknowledged the wide-ranging impact of substance abuse on Texas citizens.

Senator Cruz chats it up with TST’s own Sachin.

Atalie and Sachin also visited Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s office, where they met with his Health Legislative Aide Hannah Vogel to discuss substance use disorders and prevention as public health issues.

Health Legislative Aide Hannah Vogel (pictured far left) speaks to a group of representatives from various behavioral health organizations in Texas.

Overall, the trip was a valuable experience. If TST wants to change attitudes and behaviors toward youth substance use, advocacy at local, statewide, and national levels is essential.

Tis the Season

Action Alert: Powdered Alcohol

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Action Alert

Powdered Alcohol For Sale in Texas this Summer

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What's the issue?
Powdered alcohol will officially hit the market in Texas this summer.

Why the concern?
Palcohol (powdered alcohol) is alcohol in a powdered form, sold in a 1 ounce packet that is the equivalent of a shot. Public health and safety experts are concerned that this product is easy to conceal, and that there is a potential for overconsumption, or even spiking other's drinks.
We know that these types of products have proven most popular among the heaviest drinking and more risk-prone youth and we are concerned that there will be an increase in underage binge drinking and alcohol poisoning after the product hits the shelves.

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Why are we alerting you now?
HB 1018, a bill to ban powdered alcohol was introduced by State Representative Charlie Geren. Despite being scheduled for consideration by the full House of Representatives, Rep. Geren killed his own bill after speaking to "people in the industry" and deciding to wait and see what happens when the product is introduced in Texas.

What can you do? They heard from the industry. Did they hear from you?  It is critical that our decision makers hear from everyone on such important issues. To learn who represents you, click here.

To view a Powdered Alcohol fact sheet created by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, click here.

To read Texans Standing Tall's most recent interview on powdered alcohol and the prevalence of underage drinking in Texas, click here.

For more information or talking points on powdered alcohol, or to learn how you can get involved with Texans Standing Tall, contact Grace at gbarnett@texansstandingtall.org.

 

Texans Standing Tall
2211 South IH-35, Suite 201
Austin, Texas 78741
(512) 442-7501

Tis the Season

Action Alert: 9 Hours Left! Have You Commented Yet?

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Action Alert

Countdown for Comments on US Dietary Guidelines

9 HOURS LEFT!

Thank you to everyone who commented already. We submitted our comments this morning and with your support we can make sure that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for alcohol are maintained.

If you have not had the chance to comment, you still have 9 hours to make your voice heard. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is proposing to alter the definition of "moderate drinking" and to encourage moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet. You must submit comments by tonight at 10:59 pm.  Comment now by clicking here.

Already advocates from across the country have commented on the failure of the proposed guidelines to define moderate, heavy and binge drinking. It is easy to comment and doesn't take much time at all.

All you need to do is submit your contact information which can remain private, check the box for "General Comment" under Topics, and say "We urge you to retain the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines regarding moderate alcohol consumption." Click submit and you will have contributed to the public dialogue on this critical public health issue.

To view comments written by advocates from across the country, click here.

For more information on the proposed guidelines, or for talking points to help you draft your comments, click here for a fact sheet created by the US Alcohol Policy Alliance, or contact Grace at gbarnett@texansstandingtall.org.

 

Texans Standing Tall
2211 South IH-35, Suite 201
Austin, Texas 78741
(512) 442-7501

Tis the Season

Action Alert: 32 Hours Left! Have You Commented Yet?

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Action Alert

Countdown for Comments on US Dietary Guidelines

32 HOURS LEFT!

Have you commented yet? You have 32 hours to make your voice heard. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is proposing to alter the definition of "moderate drinking" and to encourage moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet. You must submit comments by tomorrow, May 8th at 11:59 pm E.D.T.  Comment now by clicking here.

Already advocates from across the country have commented on the failure of the proposed guidelines to define moderate, heavy and binge drinking. It is easy to comment and doesn't take much time at all.

All you need to do is submit your contact information which can remain private, check the box for "General Comment" under Topics, and say "We urge you to retain the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines regarding moderate alcohol consumption." Click submit and you will have contributed to the public dialogue on this critical public health issue.

To view comments written by advocates from across the country, click here.

For more information on the proposed guidelines, or for talking points to help you draft your comments, click here for a fact sheet created by the US Alcohol Policy Alliance, or contact Grace at gbarnett@texansstandingtall.org.

 

Texans Standing Tall
2211 South IH-35, Suite 201
Austin, Texas 78741
(512) 442-7501

Tis the Season

Action Alert: Last Chance to Comment: Defining Moderate Drinking

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Action Alert

Defining Moderate Drinking in Dietary Guidelines

Your input is needed!

The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is proposing to alter the definition of "moderate drinking" and to encourage moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet. To make sure your voice is heard, you must submit comments by Friday, May 8th at 11:59 pm E.D.T. Comment now by clicking here.

Already advocates from across the country have commented on the failure of the proposed guidelines to define moderate, heavy and binge drinking. It is easy to comment and doesn't take much time at all. All you need to say is "We urge you to retain the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines regarding moderate alcohol consumption."

To view comments written by advocates from across the country, click here.

For more information on the proposed guidelines, or for talking points to help you draft your comments, click here for a fact sheet created by the US Alcohol Policy Alliance, or contact Grace at gbarnett@texansstandingtall.org.

Texans Standing Tall
2211 South IH-35, Suite 201
Austin, Texas 78741
(512) 442-7501