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Update: Powdered Alcohol

Thanks to dedicated efforts from advocates across Texas, we came together and accomplished something important: we let policymakers know that powdered alcohol has no place in our state.

There’s still work left to do, and in the coming months, we’ll be calling on you to keep educating your family, friends, and elected officials about the importance of keeping this dangerous product off the shelves. But first, let’s look at what we were able to do when we worked together this session:

  • On February 28, TST brought together advocates from across the state for Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol. After a morning of training, attendees visited their representatives’ offices to educate them on the dangers of powdered alcohol and ask them to ban the product.
  • In March, TST CEO Nicole Holt, along with coalition members from across the state, provided testimony on powdered alcohol before House and Senate committees. During the hearings, YLC member Andrea Marquez demonstrated how easy it would be for youth to conceal nearly 50 shots of alcohol in a makeup bag. See the video below for the same demonstration shared during TST’s Statewide Summit.
  • The Texas Tribune covered powdered alcohol and the committee hearings in a featured piece on their website.
  • TribTalk published op-eds about reasons for banning powdered alcohol from TST’s Sachin Kamble and YLC member Andrea Marquez.
  • Coalition members and other concerned citizens called and emailed their representatives to say that an outright ban of powdered alcohol is the safest path forward for our youth.
  • Powerful advocates and community leaders in Lufkin and College Station had editorials on banning powdered alcohol published in local papers.
  • Efforts to classify and regulate powdered alcohol as an alcoholic beverage died in the House and Senate.

And then this happened…

Towards the end of May, we saw that the label for Lt. Blender’s “Cheat-A-Rita” has been approved and it’s getting closer to the marketplace. Though we’ve made great strides, there are still businesses out there looking to make money by selling a dangerous product that poses a threat to the health and safety of our youth, even though there’s no demand for it.

Clearly, we have more work to do.

We will continue to monitor what’s happening with powdered alcohol in Texas and throughout the United States. Be sure to stay tuned and let us know how you want to be involved. Click the “Get Involved!” button below and let us know if you would like to:

  • Receive news and updates on powdered alcohol.
  • Contact your representatives about banning powdered alcohol.
  • Provide testimony on powdered alcohol during any interim hearings or the legislative session in 2019.
  • Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for the paper in your community.
  • Participate in a powdered alcohol workgroup.

Get Involved!

Thanks for your continued support and advocacy efforts!

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Happy Memorial Day from TST!

Memorial Day is coming up, so we encourage everyone to take a moment to remember those who have given their lives in service of the United States. At TST, our hearts are grateful for and humbled by the sacrifices so many honorable men, women, and families have made for our country.

The increased travel that occurs during the Memorial Day Weekend also makes it one of the most dangerous holidays on the roads. To help keep everyone safe and healthy, we’ve put together some helpful tips for travel over the holiday. Happy Memorial Day!

 

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YLC Members of the Month: Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela

Carlos and Andrea after testifying at the Capitol

Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela were selected as the April and May YLC Members of the Month for their outstanding advocacy efforts; both made trips to the Texas Capitol to provide public testimony on issues that affect underage alcohol and tobacco use.

Catching an early morning flight from El Paso to Austin, Andrea spent two days in town so she could testify on her concerns about powdered alcohol before the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and Senate Business & Commerce Committee. During her testimony, Andrea discussed why she thinks it’s important to ban the product and demonstrated how easy it would be for a youth to conceal powdered alcohol packets. Armed with a makeup bag containing 48 Kool-Aid packets (the approximate size of a powdered alcohol packet), she dumped them onto the table and shared that the packets in her small bag equaled more shots than what you would find in a large 1.75L bottle of alcohol. She then asked legislators to think about which one they thought would be easier for a young person to sneak out of the house without their parents noticing: the bottle or the bag? Her powerful testimony helped educate everyone in the room on the potential harms we would see if powdered alcohol ever made it to the shelves.

Making the drive from Ingleside, Carlos came to Austin so he could testify before the House Public Health Committee. Though the hearing got postponed, super advocate Carlos hung around for an extra day so he could speak to the benefits of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. He asked for Texas to be a leader in the fight against tobacco by becoming the third state to raise the tobacco age to 21. Carlos also used his personal story about growing up around tobacco use and being offered tobacco in high school to help explain why raising the purchase age will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from youth during an impressionable time in their lives. Since 95% of smokers start before age 21, raising the age of sale to 21 is seen as an effective way to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and save lives. If you’re interested in learning more, Texas 21, a coalition of organizations working to prevent tobacco use, has put together a wealth of information on the issue. Check it out at texas21.org.

We are incredibly proud to call Andrea and Carlos members of our Youth Leadership Council. Along with their fellow YLC members, they constantly inspire us to do more and work harder to ensure we’re creating safe and healthy communities for everyone. If you’d like to learn more about the YLC and how to get involved, contact Georgia Marks at gmarks@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501.

Andrea reminding us to make every day awesome!
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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

For nearly 70 years, numerous organizations throughout the country have observed May as Mental Health Awareness Month. The goal is to spend the month raising awareness and reminding people that mental health issues are something we should all care about. Texans Standing Tall wanted to take a minute to “go green” (the color for mental health) and talk about the relationship between mental health and the substance use prevention community.

As many people may know, substance use disorders are considered a mental illness; they change normal behaviors and can interfere with a person’s ability to go to work, go to school, and have good relationships with others. According to SAMHSA, nearly 44 million Americans over age 18 have experienced some form of mental illness, and more than 20 million have had a substance use disorder. Nearly 8 million of those individuals have had both a mental disorder and substance use disorder, also known as co-occurring disorders.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that, all other factors being equal, substance use rates among individuals with mental illness are higher than use rates among the overall population. Specifically, mental illness increases use rates by 20% for alcohol, 27% for cocaine, and 86% for cigarettes. Further, their research states that “there is a definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances,” revealing that individuals with an existing mental illness consume 38% of all alcohol, 44% of all cocaine, and 40% of all cigarettes. Beyond that, individuals who have ever experienced mental illness consume about 69% of all alcohol, 84% of all cocaine, and 68% of all cigarettes.

Interestingly, the NBER points to price increases as a way to reduce use among this high-consuming group. And, in a way, this brings us full circle to our work in the prevention community. At TST, we have an ongoing focus on environmental prevention strategies. For example, we advocate for raising alcohol excise taxes since they haven’t been raised in Texas since 1984, but a dime a drink increase would be an effective way to improve public health and safety in our state. Such strategies allow us to create change that not only prevents youth substance use, but also helps prevent other physical, mental, and social health issues that can occur alongside or as a result of substance use. Conversely, by taking an interest in addressing mental health issues early on, we may also be able to prevent substance use issues that can occur downstream.

While it is often easy to operate within the prevention field alone, it’s important to remember that the more we can work with others – both inside and outside of prevention – the more we can do to make a huge difference in people’s lives. Our challenge to you is to keep building new relationships (and let us know about your successes when you do)! And in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, reach out to a mental health ally to learn more about the work they do and how you can support each other in your efforts to create safe and healthy communities for everyone.

If you’d like to learn more about TST’s work related to mental health issues, contact our Peer Policy Fellow, Sachin Kamble, at 512.442.7501 or skamble@texansstandingtall.org.

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Spotlight: Palmview Passes Smoke-Free and Social Host Ordinances

Congratulations to Palmview, TX, for passing smoke-free and social host ordinances on April 4! Thanks to the hard work of the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition and the UNIDAD Coalition, Palmview became the 14th city in the Valley to pass a smoke-free ordinance and the first in the Valley – and third in the state – to pass a social host ordinance.

The city’s new social host ordinance addresses underage alcohol use and the associated negative consequences by holding individuals responsible for providing a place where anyone under age 21 has access to alcohol. Those who violate the ordinance could face a civil fine of $500 for their first offense; subsequent violations could result in fines of up to $1,000. The police department and UNIDAD will immediately begin a public education campaign to increase awareness of the ordinance prior to enactment.

Texans Standing Tall is proud to support Palmview and all of the other cities in Texas working to create positive community change. To learn more about smoke-free ordinances, contact Steve Ross at sross@texansstandingtall.org; to learn more about social host ordinances, contact Libby Banks at lbanks@texansstandingtall.org. For more information about addressing underage alcohol and tobacco use in your community, visit Texans Standing Tall’s website at www.texansstandingtall.org or give us a call at 512-442-7501.

UNIDAD Coalition with TST’s Brian Lemons after Palmview passed the Valley’s first social host ordinance.
Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition after passing the smoke-free ordinance in Palmview, TX.
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PG-13 May Not Be So Youth Friendly After All

Summer is nearly upon us, which means our youth will have more time to revel in the delight of school-free days for the next few months. For many, summer blockbusters in air-conditioned movie theaters are an ageless tradition for passing the time on hot summer days. While movies can be a great way to escape the Texas heat, parents may want to brush up on what their kids could be seeing, especially when it comes to tobacco and alcohol product placement – even in films rated PG-13.

Tobacco in Movies
Parents and youth may be surprised to learn that movies with smoking are a big influence when it comes to young people’s decisions to start smoking. In fact, the 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report establishes that there is a “causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.”

For years, the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars getting their brands on screen to promote their products. Though the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement prohibited tobacco placement in entertainment accessible to kids, young people continue to see smoking in youth-rated films. According to research conducted at the University of California Center for Tobacco Research Control and Education, from 2002 to 2015, nearly half (46%) of the top-grossing movies in the U.S. were rated PG-13. Of those, approximately 6 out of every 10 movies (59%) showed smoking or some other form of tobacco use.

Smoke Free Movies, an organization started by tobacco policy and research guru Stanton A. Glantz, has found that “smoking in movies kills in real life.” The organization hopes to reduce young audiences’ exposure to smoking in movies and create counter-incentives to keep the tobacco industry out of entertainment media. Smoke Free Movies suggests five evidence-based policies to reduce adolescents’ exposure to tobacco onscreen and to reduce tobacco addiction, disease, and death overall:

  1. Give an R-rating to any future film that shows or implies tobacco use.
  2. Certify that nobody associated with a production received a payoff for including tobacco depictions.
  3. Require that studios and theaters run strong anti-smoking ads immediately before any production that has any tobacco presence.
  4. Stop identifying tobacco brands in any scenes of a media production.
  5. End public subsidies for any productions that include tobacco imagery.

Looking at the first policy alone, Smoke Free Movies says that “one little letter will save a million lives.” The way movies are currently rated, the organization estimates that movies with smoking will cause 6.4 million children and teens to become smokers, and it will result in 2 million smoking deaths among that same group. However, their research shows that an R-rating would essentially cut both of those numbers in half by keeping 3.1 million kids from smoking and preventing 1 million smoking deaths among today’s youth. Together, all five of the policies mentioned above can truly help future generations live smoke-free. To learn more about the initiative and how to get involved, visit smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu.

Alcohol in Movies
It is also worth noting that tobacco isn’t the only substance youth are exposed to in movies. Research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting shows that alcohol brand placement in movies has nearly doubled over the past two decades. Researchers also found that alcohol brands appeared in 41% of child-rated movies during the study period (1996 – 2015). Three brands – Budweiser, Miller, and Heineken – accounted for almost one-third of all brand placements, but Budweiser had the highest amount of appearances in child-rated movies (15%). And, it turns out that the brands most often seen in movies are the ones that young people say they drink the most. An author of the study says this is not a surprising result since youth often see movie stars as role models. As a result, when they see one of their favorite celebrities drinking a certain brand, youth associate that brand with all of the characteristics they admire about that celebrity. What makes alcohol exposure in movies even more troubling is the fact that the Center on Alcohol and Youth Marketing (CAMY) has found that the more people under the legal drinking age of 21 are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking early and engage in binge drinking.

Texan Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC) members are not keen on being targets for the alcohol industry, so they’ve decided to use their voices to fight back. Most recently, they presented on the topic at our 2017 Summit on Healthy and Safe Communities; they are currently working on service projects to increase awareness about the role alcohol marketing plays in youth use of alcohol. If you or a youth you know is interested in joining the YLC to work on this issue or others like it, the application for the 2017-2018 YLC year is now open. Join us and this amazing group of young leaders as we work to create safe and healthy communities for all Texans!

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Powdered Alcohol Update

Many of you may have been following the movement on the powdered alcohol front in recent months. As the Legislature has made moves to regulate the product, many voices – several of them yours – said it would be better to not see powdered alcohol on the shelves at all.

We believe that powdered alcohol presents a unique set of risks that we haven’t seen since alcoholic energy drinks were introduced in 2005. Unfortunately, alcoholic energy drinks are a prime example of waiting too late to act. Though many public health and policy experts expressed concerns about the dangers of the product, it still found its way to the shelves. The availability of this product, similar to powdered alcohol in youth appeal, resulted in extreme misuse and overconsumption among young drinkers. Unfortunately, it took several young people losing their lives or getting seriously injured before the government decided to act and pull the product. Had alcoholic energy drinks been banned outright, as many experts agreed they should have been, the tragic loss of lives could have been prevented.

Due to our concerns about powdered alcohol, we’ve recently spent a lot of time educating lawmakers and the public about the potential dangers of this product. The bottom line is that powdered alcohol is easy to misuse, conceal, and overconsume. The packets are so small it would be easy for a teen to carry the equivalent of a 30-pack their makeup bag or a 6-pack in their pocket. Alcoholic products that pose this level of danger to our youth require that we be more proactive than reactive; we must act now to prevent harm to our youth instead of waiting to respond once tragedies have already occurred.

We believe the effort to regulate powdered alcohol is well-intentioned and aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texas children. But right now, powdered alcohol is not in the marketplace or black market; regulation would open the door for sales and easy youth access to a product that youth could easily conceal, misuse, or overconsume. As parents, community members, and state leaders concerned about the health and safety of our youth, our efforts should focus on making alcohol products less, not more, available to them. We should not be altering the definition of alcohol to include a powdered version so a company can make a quick buck at the expense of our kids.

As it is, we know that alcohol is the most used substance by youth in Texas, with more than half of middle and high school students saying they have used alcohol at some point in their lifetime. We also know that youth use of alcohol is linked to several serious consequences, such as traffic crashes and fatalities, DUI arrests, poor academic performance, increased dropout rates, unintended pregnancies, and violent crime. Given the number of existing issues that make it challenging enough to protect the lives of our youth, why add another set of completely preventable issues to the list with powdered alcohol?

After the current legislative session ends on May 30, 2017, we will provide a session overview on powdered alcohol, as well as key next steps you can take to keep it off the shelves. In the meantime, to learn more about powdered alcohol and what you can do to protect our youth from the substance, contact Sachin Kamble at skamble@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501, or visit us online at www.TexansStandingTall.org.

TST  used the above props to demonstrate that the number of Kool-Aid packets (which are the approximate size of a powdered alcohol packet) a teen could fit in her makeup bag equaled more shots than there are in a 1.75L bottle of alcohol.
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2017 Statewide Summit Recap

Our 2017 Statewide Summit was a success – thanks largely to you all for joining us on May 1st and 2nd in Austin, Texas, for the event! With help from a range of national and state experts, participants grew their knowledge on a number of prevention issues, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), best practices for tobacco prevention and control, addressing binge drinking on college campuses, the relationship between mental health issues and prevention, and more. In case you weren’t able to join us for Summit this year, TST staff members have put together some of the main takeaways from each of the presentations – check it out below!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 2018 Statewide Summit, which will take place February 21-22, 2018, at the Austin Marriott South. We hope to see you there!

From across Texas, advocates came together to #DecideToACT.

 

A Community’s Response to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Nora Boesem | Founder, Roots to Wings

After flight delays, flight cancellations, and an impromptu road trip with a fellow stranded passenger, Nora Boesem finally made it to Summit – and we sure are glad she did! Sharing her story as a foster mother to more than 100 children with FASD, Nora inspired attendees to step into the role of advocates and ACT. In addition to learning about the amazing work Nora does as a mother and in her community, her presentation also taught us:

  • FASD is a physical disability with behavioral symptoms; it does not go away and it is not outgrown.
  • Raising and working with individuals who have FASD sometimes means trying differently rather than harder to address some of the behavioral issues encountered.
  • The effects of FASD are far-reaching and can result in genetic changes that are passed from one generation to the next.
  • We can see positive changes in our communities when we work together, but it’s important to remember change takes time – patience and perseverance are often required.

Following the Money: How Industry Influences Policy
Jennifer Cofer, MPH, CHES | Director, EndTobacco Program, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Bob Pezzolesi, MPH | Founding Director, New York Alcohol Policy Alliance

Jennifer Cofer and Bob Pezzolesi gave Summit participants insight into the history of how alcohol and tobacco industries influence government policies to promote their own agendas. The presenters brought years of experience in public health, prevention, and the promotion of science-based, public health policies. Participants left with a greater awareness of the major industry contributors to elected officials and policies as well as how the industry impacts national, state and local prevention policies. These takeaways allowed participants to return to their communities empowered with knowledge of industry financial influence and encouraged to advocate for vital public health policies. Additionally, Jennifer and Bob shared some specific resources advocates can use when trying to follow the money:

  • To learn more about how the tobacco industry influences policy, visit no-smoke.org.
  • To explore how much money the alcohol industry gives to different politicians and political organizations, check out followthemoney.org
  • Don’t forget: You have to speak up/advocate so the tobacco and alcohol industries are not the only ones with influence!

Broadcasting Your ACTions
Dave Shaw | President, Arrow

Thanks to Dave Shaw, President of Arrow Media, Summit attendees got an expert crash course on developing messages to gain supporters and move prevention strategies forward. Ultimately, he encouraged us to ask ourselves who our key audiences are, what they care about, and what we want them to know. Dave’s presentation also reminded participants that crafting a strong message relies on:

    • Considering these factors about your audience:
      • Where are they from?
      • What do they know about you?
      • What keeps them up at night?
      • How much do they know about the topic?
      • Why should they care?
      • What is their number one concern?
    • Knowing your story really well and understanding what you want people to take away from the conversation.
    • Remembering that the message and the messenger matter.
    • A solid process for message development and delivery. This should consider:
    1. The problem, solution, and benefit.
      • What is the size and scope? Who does it impact?
      • What difference can we make?
      • What’s in it for your audience?
    1. The main takeaway, how to connect, and what proof you have.
      • What do you want people to feel/do?
      • How do you get people to listen?
      • How do you make people believe? (Evidence/Data)

Blowing the Whistle on Youth Alcohol Marketing
Youth Leadership Council | Texans Standing Tall

This year, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) gave two fantastic presentations during Summit, covering topics from alcohol advertisements targeted at youth to effectively engaging youth in prevention activities. During their plenary presentation on alcohol advertising, we learned that:

  • Alcohol companies spend over 2 billion dollar a year on advertisements.
  • 1 out of every 5 alcohol advertisements appears on programing that youth ages 12 to 20 are more likely to watch.
  • References to alcohol are very prominent in music, from country to rap.
  • Alcohol companies use cultural references to entice customers.
  • Youth are especially vulnerable to these types of advertisements because they are new and inexperienced customers.
  • Community prevention advocates can monitor advertisements in their community, especially around schools and in places youth are more likely to see them.

The YLC also presented during an interactive breakout session on day two of the Summit. They discussed important practices organizations can employ for effective youth engagement:

  • Involve youth in recruitment efforts to increase the size of a youth group.
  • Have an application process, letter of agreement, and clear guidelines for communicating roles and expectations to help retain youth members over a longer period of time.
  • Let youth work with adult members to make decisions about which projects they will be involved in and what their roles will be.
  • Allow youth to learn and grow leadership skills.
  • Practice positive group characteristics, such as setting clear responsibilities and expectations, learning how to work together as a team, and establishing clear lines of communication.
  • Use the “Ladder of Participation” to assess progress and examine how youth and adults can work together more effectively.

On a related note, in the Fall, Texans Standing Tall and will be providing a new Community engagement guide (with accompanying trainings) that provides more in-depth information on youth and adults working together to achieve effective partnerships. Please contact Georgia Marks  at gmarks@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501 for further information.

YLC members presenting during Summit

Best Practices Make Perfect
Karla S. Sneegas, MPH | Program Service Branch Chief, Office on Smoking and Health – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We were excited to welcome Karla Sneegas to talk about the CDC’s recommendations for best practices in tobacco prevention and control. From Ms. Sneegas, we learned:

  • Tobacco use remains a considerable public health problem nationally and in Texas, where it costs almost $9 Billion a year in medical care and loss of productivity. Every year, over 28,000 Texans lose their life prematurely due to smoking.
  • The CDC recommends that Texas spend $10.13 per person per year on tobacco control. However, the state currently spends only $0.47 per person.
  • By following the CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, states can effectively and comprehensively attack the problem.
  • There are five main components to a comprehensive tobacco control program:
    1. State and community interventions
    2. Mass-reach health communications interventions
    3. Cessation interventions
    4. Surveillance and evaluation
    5. Infrastructure, administration and management
  • Bottom line: we know how to implement better interventions, more efficiently, with a stronger evidence base and a greater reach. Now we just need to reach the recommended funding level for a sustained tobacco control program to most effectively reduce tobacco use.

Promoting Community Standards to Address College Binge Drinking
Toben Nelson, ScD | Assoc. Prof., Epidemiology & Community Health, Univ. of Minnesota School of Public Health

This year, we were so excited to have Dr. Toben Nelson join us at Summit! It was incredibly helpful to have him share strategies for building partnerships between colleges and communities to implement effective prevention strategies. He opened a dialogue between our current campus partners and prevention coalitions in their communities, which was also a huge advantage of having him with us. Dr. Nelson also encouraged those of us in the prevention field to:

  • Reframe how communities and colleges think and talk about environmental strategies.
  • View policies as community standards and enforcement as what makes everyone accountable to those standards.
  • Use existing tools in our collaboration efforts.

Up in Smoke! Tobacco Prevention Funding
Joel Dunnington, MD, FACR | Retired Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at UT, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Joel Dunnington brought his wealth of knowledge to Summit and provided an overview of the Tobacco Settlement Funding, its intended purpose, and how it’s actually been used. Participants also learned how much could be accomplished if funding levels were closer to the CDC’s recommendations so they can take action and help move Texas closer to the recommended levels. Participants also learned:

  • In Texas, the Tobacco Settlement Funds established the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement
  • In 2011, the 82nd Legislature expanded the use of the three Permanent Funds, including the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement, to pay the principal or interest on a bond for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. As a result, the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement will be zeroed out at the end of FY2018.

To learn more about the details of the Texas Tobacco Settlement, visit http://www.dshs.texas.gov/tobacco/settlement.shtm

And the Survey Says? Results from TST’s Alcohol Excise Tax Survey          
Matt Gamble | Vice President of Operations, Baselice & Associates

Matt Gamble, Vice President of Operations at Baselice and Associates, gave a presentation sharing the results of the Texans Standing Tall’s recent statewide survey. The survey measured voters’ overall attitudes towards an increase in the alcohol excise tax, what programs they think should receive the estimated $708 million in additional revenue, and what messages respondents found most persuasive. Many were surprised to learn:

  • A majority of Texans across all demographics and regions support the initiative.
  • Despite conventional wisdom saying otherwise, most Texas voters do not shrink at the term “tax” when it comes to raising alcohol excise taxes.
  • Women and regular churchgoers are most supportive of an increase in alcohol excise taxes.
  • Texas voters responded most favorably to economic and public health messages that discussed how:
    • The alcohol excise tax has not been raised in Texas since 1984.
    • Excessive drinking costs the state $19 billion/year and each Texan $695/year.
    • A dime a drink increase in alcohol excise taxes could improve public safety by decreasing impaired driving and motor vehicle crashes/fatalities by 112/year.
    • Increasing the alcohol excise tax benefits public education by providing additional $177 million/year for schools.

Ending the Stigma of Co-Occurring Conditions
Noah Abdenour, Certified Peer Specialist | Director of Peer Support Services, Austin State Hospital

Noah Abdenour presented on the intersection between prevention and mental health, taking a special look at the relationship between prevention and recovery. By sharing his personal story, Noah was able to reinforce the theme of deciding to A.C.T (Accomplishing Change Together).   His journey included examples of how peers played an integral role in helping him transform his life. During his presentation, we also learned that:

  • Co-occurring disorders are when somebody has a mental health condition and substance use issue at the same time. He emphasized how co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of symptoms.  He also mentioned that one can often times mask the other, and vice versa.
  • Prevention can play a role in behavioral health by helping people maintain self-care and wellness.
  • Current issues with the behavioral health landscape in Texas include lack of access to care, workforce shortage, inadequate training for some behavioral health professionals.

Communities in ACTion (Panel)
Tom Marino | Social Host Workgroup Chair, Circles of San Antonio Coalition
Tracy Talavera | Coalition Coordinator, Circles of San Antonio Coalition
Gilda Bowen | Coordinator, Uniting Neighbors in Drug Abuse Defense Tobacco Prevention & Control Coalition
Rosalie Tristan | Communities Against Substance Abuse Coordinator, Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas
Ed Swedberg | Deputy Executive Director, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Michael Sparks, Moderator | President, Sparks Initiatives

The Communities in ACTion focused on how local communities are acting to create change through ordinances, story-telling, and enforcement efforts. Michael Sparks, national alcohol policy expert, moderated the discussion, which included Circles of San Antonio staff and coalition members, UNIDAD Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition staff and volunteers, and the TABC Deputy Executive Director. This highly accomplished and motivated panel discussed different factors essential for community change:

  • Relationship building within the community is critical. Without these relationships in place, the strategy, no matter how effective, will inevitably fail.
  • A strategy requires an additional emotional catalyst to draw the community in. Relevant personal stories drive the strategy forward by placing a human face on an emotionally inaccessible, typically data driven issue.
  • Upon implementation, a policy is only effective when thoroughly enforced.
  • Compliance checks are way to address underage drinking in communities.
  • Coalitions can work with TABC and the local police by reporting stores and bars that repeatedly violate the law by selling to minors.

In addition to the plenary sessions highlighted above, Summit attendees also had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions on both days of the event. During the breakouts, participants were able to work more closely with our expert speakers to further explore the presentation topics and how they can apply the information to their prevention work at home.

If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Texans Standing Tall’s Statewide Summit, please contact us at 512.442.7501 or tst@texansstandingtall.org.

Back Row (L to R): Vickie Adams (COSA), Boyd Baxter (COSA), Michael Sparks (Sparks Initiatives), Tom Marino (COSA), Betsy Jones (COSA). Front Row (L to R): Mellissa Munoz (SACADA), Nicole Holt (TST), Keely Petty (Bethel Prevention Coalition), Tracy Talavera (COSA)
L to R: Ales Flood (SETCADA), Carrie Bronaugh (H2i), Sara Tomlinson (H2i)
L to R: Keely Petty (Bethel Prevention Coalition), Taylor Bee (Baylor Scott & White), Tasha Alexander (Baylor Scott & White)
During Summit, TST was excited to celebrate our 20 years of prevention work.
Advocacy

Prevention Advocates Convene in Austin to Meet with Lawmakers

San Antonio prevention experts, youth and TST’s Christi Koenig Brisky prepare for a day of educating lawmaker on the steps of the Texas Capitol.

­­Texans Standing Tall, along with several coalitions, individuals, and youth from across the state, went to the Texas Capitol on Feb. 28 to educate lawmakers on the importance of prevention. Approximately 70 alcohol and tobacco prevention specialists attended Texans Standing Tall’s Advocacy Day to inform their representatives on the risks associated with powdered alcohol, the public health and safety benefits of raising the alcohol excise tax, the public health benefits of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco to 21, and the critical need for tobacco prevention and control funding.

The day opened with Marjorie Clifton, with Arrow, a media consulting firm, expanding Advocacy Day participants’ knowledge on the notable outcomes from TST’s 2017 Excise Tax Survey, which was conducted by research firm Baselice & Associates. According to the survey, 65% of registered voters support a dime a drink increase, especially when the revenue generated goes to public safety and education. Increasing the alcohol excise tax by a dime a drink would generate an additional $708 million in revenue every year. By current law, 25% of alcohol excise taxes generated is automatically designated for public education; the remainder of the money could be used to fund public health and safety efforts, as well as other issues that Texans are passionate about. Raising alcohol excise taxes is also the single biggest step we can take to prevent underage alcohol use and abuse – a dime a drink would save 402 lives annually.

Advocacy Day participants also learned about Texas lawmakers’ efforts to expand the definition of alcohol to include powdered alcohol, which has a texture similar to Tang or Kool-Aid and can be added to water to make cocktails or alcoholic drinks. The expanded definition would allow the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) to regulate powdered alcohol and pave the way for this dangerous substance to be sold on the market. Kitty Allen, a public health advocate from the Galveston area, spoke to Advocacy Day attendees about the dangers powdered alcohol poses to the public health and safety of our communities. Powdered alcohol comes in small, youth-friendly packages that can easily be hidden in purses and pockets, essentially making it so teenagers can carry a 30-pack in their purses and 6-packs in their pockets to school, parties, or other events. Allen attested to TST’s belief that putting powdered alcohol on the shelves is a bad mix for Texas.

Cam Scott and Kaitlyn Murphy then took over the microphone to discuss the issues Tobacco Prevention and Control Program funded coalitions are facing. Nearly 50% of tobacco funding is on the chopping block, which could result in the state’s number of new smokers trending back up. The Campaign for Drug-Free Kids reports that states where funding was cut resulted in disastrous outcomes in the quest to create a tobacco-free generation. For example, Florida experienced a massive increase in tobacco use when state funding was slashed – smoking among youth 16 and older increased by 21.2%. When the funds were restored, smoking among youth declined by 62%.

Youth Leadership Council members met with journalist Ross Ramsey from the Texas Tribune.

The duo also briefed Advocacy Day participants on the latest in tobacco prevention efforts, Tobacco21. Attendees educated lawmakers on the benefits of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco in Texas from 18 to 21. The measure has already passed in two states and multiple cities in the across the country. According to the Minimal Retail Impact of Raising Tobacco Sales Age to 21, 90% of smokers start by age 21, but the 18-20 crowd only accounts for 2.12% of tobacco sales. These are the sales that account for 9 out of every 10 new smokers. By restricting youth access to tobacco, we can significantly reduce the number of new smokers.

TST was incredibly inspired by eight of our Youth Leadership Council members, who carried out a fundraising campaign so they could join us in Austin for Advocacy Day. At the event, our youth expressed very strong feelings about the importance of preventing underage alcohol use.

“Underage drinking costs Texas $2.1 billion annually, primarily in law enforcement and health related issues, and it would be impossible to place a value on the loss of life,” YLC member Kayla Gardner said. “We took time to travel to Austin to let our lawmakers know what is going on in our communities and how important it is that they start looking at prevention as a way to protect me, my friends, and their own kids from the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.”

All of the issues discussed at Advocacy Day are critical issues that communities need to address. The normalization of alcohol results in higher numbers of underage drinkers, traffic deaths, homicides, suicides, and sexual assaults. The normalization of alcohol and pressure from a single business kept lawmakers from banning powdered alcohol—something that more than 30 states have already done—and allowed them to put industry interests ahead of the lives of our youth. On the tobacco front, budget restraints could result in lawmakers cutting funding to tobacco programs that save countless lives and decrease tobacco-related cancer risks.

It is up to us to act on behalf on future of generations. Advocacy Day was a strong show of support from those who are passionate about reducing the negative impact alcohol and tobacco have on the health and safety of our youth. Decide to ACT today and keep the momentum going! Register to attend TST’s Statewide Summit on May 1-2 so you can be prepared for the next obstacle in protecting today’s youth.

colorectal-cancer-awareness

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The CDC reports that about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease annually, while more than 50,000 people die from it. This Colorectal Awareness Month, Texans Standing Tall asks that you raise awareness around the increased risks of developing the disease from alcohol use.

For some, risks for colorectal cancer can be attributed to genetics. A family history of polyps in the colon, rectum, or both tremendously increases risks for colorectal cancer. However, lifestyle factors can also increase the risks.

Cancer Research UK points to alcohol consumption as a risk factor for seven different cancers: head and neck, larynx, esophageal, liver, women’s breast, and colorectal. In the United States, it is estimated that 3.5% of all cancer deaths are alcohol-related. In Texas, 58 people die annually from alcohol attributed colorectal cancer.

Though we’ve heard more about the connection between alcohol and cancer in recent years, the concept is nothing new. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared it to be a group 1 carcinogen in 1988. In other words, there is sufficient evidence showing that alcohol consumption can cause cancer.

Research points to several ways that alcohol use can increase cancer risk:

  • The ethanol in alcoholic drinks breaks down into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and proteins.
  • Alcohol can create highly reactive molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that can also damage DNA.
  • Alcohol can impair the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk.
  • Alcohol can increase blood levels of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer risk.

While there is no “safe” amount to drink when it comes to cancer, research also indicates the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the risk.  By making the following changes, Texans can greatly lower their risks of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Limit alcohol intake. Research shows that alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for colorectal cancer.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is generally a risky life choice because of it increases the chances of developing cancer. Drinking and smoking multiplies the risks for certain cancers because alcohol and tobacco work together to damage cells of the body. Alcohol also makes it easier for the body to absorb carcinogens in tobacco.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Diets high in red meats and processed meats (like hotdogs and some lunch meats) can raise the risk for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that diets that consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain fibers have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Engage in physical activity. Studies show that being more physically active helps lower colorectal cancer risks.
  • Educate lawmakers on the benefits of an alcohol excise tax increase. In February, Texans Standing Tall released The Effect of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths. The document serves as addendum to our full report, The Effect of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Public Health and Safety in Texas, and shows that a dime a drink increase would result in 8.62% fewer colorectal cancer deaths in Texas every year. At first, that may not sound like a significant number, but it’s important to remember that those lives being saved are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, teacher, or coworker.

We must begin protecting our youth and our communities by implementing evidence-based strategies that save lives; increasing alcohol excise tax is one of the most effective ways we can do just that. To learn more check out or full excise tax report and visit TexansStandingTall.org for additional information.