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

Alcohol vs. Athletes

Research indicates that student athletes are a population that is at risk for alcohol use—81 percent of college student-athletes used alcohol in the past year, and 62 percent used alcohol in the past month (NCAA, 2014). When the vast majority of student-athletes are using alcohol on a regular basis, we have a problem.

Some factors that contribute to student-athlete alcohol use include stress from the dual roles that they play on campus and the increased scrutiny they receive, overexposure to social settings that promote alcohol use, and challenges related to having less contact with their central support networks. All students, including athletes, also tend to overestimate the alcohol use of their peers and underestimate their own alcohol use, which contributes to a drinking culture on campus.

In addition to the negative consequences of drinking that can affect all students, such as unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, and binge drinking, college student-athletes have other reasons to avoid using alcohol.

When talking about athletes specifically, there are a number of reasons alcohol use is concerning. In addition to concerns about physical and mental well-being of the students, alcohol hinders an athlete’s performance.

Alcohol Damages the Heart. Intense exercise increases your heart rate. Drinking alcohol even two days before exercising causes additional stress on the heart and can result in unusual heart rhythms (Drink Aware, 2014). 

Alcohol Harms Muscle Growth. Alcohol use cancels out gains from a workout. Chronic alcohol use can damage long-term performance by causing muscle damage, muscle loss, and muscle weakness; even short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth. This muscle loss and weakness is known as myopathy. Myopathy can affect all muscles – such as those in your arms, legs, and heart – in a way that can harm athletic abilities (University Health Center, 2014).

Exercising With a Hangover Decreases Performance. When exercising, the body must continuously remove lactic acid. After drinking, a person’s liver is working hardest to rid the body of the toxic by-products of alcohol and cannot remove the lactic acid. This causes a feeling of fatigue, which lowers athletic performance (Drink Aware, 2014).

Alcohol Causes Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes the kidneys produce more urine and can cause the athlete’s body to become dehydrated. Staying hydrated helps blood flow so it can carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles (Drink Aware, 2014). When dehydrated, an athlete may experience low energy, low endurance, cramps, muscle pulls, muscle strains, and muscle loss. Full recovery from dehydration can take up to a week (UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics).                                                                                                                                             

Alcohol Hurts Athletic Performance. Alcohol is linked with a loss of balance, reaction time, memory, and accuracy of fine motor skills (Vella & Cameron-Smith, 2010). Drinking alcohol leads to slower running and cycling times, weakens the heart’s ability to pump, impairs temperature regulation, decreases grip strength and jump height, lowers stamina, and reduces strength and power (Kozir & American College of Sports Medicine).

For college student-athletes, avoiding dangerous alcohol use can benefit their performance in and out of the classroom. Through sensible alcohol policies and educational campaigns that challenge students’ misperceptions, colleges can help prevent alcohol use among student-athletes.

For more information, check out our Athletes vs. Alcohol handout here.

 

Tis the Season

New Routines, New Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Use

The start of the school year is an exciting time! Students have the opportunity to try new activities, make new friends, and experience new social situations. However, these positive changes can also create conditions like social and academic pressures that leave young people especially vulnerable to dangerous alcohol use and abuse. Parents taking steps to prevent underage alcohol use and abuse is essential to promoting the safety of their children.

The majority of underage drinking takes place in social settings, such as at home and at parties. Even if parents are at home, underage drinking that occurs at parties can have many negative consequences, including violence and assaults, unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, property damage and vandalism, and binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Preventing underage social access to alcohol can help reduce these negative consequences.

Parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking. If parents do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink. Parents can help change attitudes and expectations that underage drinking is just a fact of life in their community by providing social activities that are alcohol-free and speaking with other parents about the consequences of underage drinking at parties, with or without supervision. Fostering an environment where underage drinking is not viewed as an inevitable rite of passage can help prevent many of the destructive consequences of underage social access to alcohol.

The beginning of the school year is fun and exciting. However, the changes in environment, friends, and school stressors can lead to unhealthy behavior. Parents should have a plan of action to help their kids stay out of trouble when it comes to underage drinking and alcohol abuse. When parents are undeniably clear with their children that are expected to obey the law and not drink underage, their children more often listen to them over their peers. Reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations can keep them safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

Tis the Season

Summer Mindfulness

 

Summer can be a time for leisure and fun for many young people, but June and July also bring reduced parental supervision and increased boredom – and a drastic change in drinking patterns for adolescents.

On an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids, aged 12 to 17, start drinking. For most other months, that number is 5,000 to 8,000 per day.
Parents should be aware of the increased risk for drinking during summer months, and work to make sure the young people in their life have fun without alcohol.

After all, we know the myth that underage drinking is harmless is pervasive. While the biggest danger is drinking and driving, there are so many additional consequences to underage drinking.

Children who begin consuming alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to experience alcohol dependence or abuse as adults. Additionally, underage drinking is linked to an increase in fights, sexual assaults, and unplanned sexual activity. Underage drinking also results in a higher likelihood of alcohol poisoning and injuries.

Right Under Our Noses

Young people are most likely to obtain alcohol from social settings and house parties. For this reason, parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking – if they do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink.

Parents should provide fun activities that do not involve alcohol; hosting get-togethers that are explicitly substance-free (a pool party, splash party, or movie night with adult supervision) can be an opportunity to bring kids together in a safe and alcohol-free environment. Parents should also check with the hosts of parties their children will be going to about whether alcohol will be served.

Social Host Ordinances

Texans Standing Tall is encouraged by a new development in some Texas cities that are adopting social host ordinances to help prevent underage drinking at house parties. So far, three Texas cities — El Paso, San Antonio, and Palmview —have adopted these ordinances that hold people accountable for underage drinking that occurs in their homes or on their property.

If you’re interested in participating in an initiative in your hometown, contact us for more information about how to implement a social host ordinance. Email Libby Banks (lbanks@texansstandingtall.org) or Brian Lemons (blemons@texansstandingtall.org), or call us at 512-442.7501.

This summer, help to encourage safe fun by being mindful of what your child does and providing appealing alternatives. We hope you have a fun and safe summer!

 

Tis the Season

Whiteclay, Nebraska. Pop: 12, Liquor Stores: 4

Until just last year, Whiteclay, Nebraska had one liquor store for every three residents. This tiny farmland community had been selling alcohol for more than 100 years to the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In many ways, Whiteclay seemed to only exist because of its liquor stores. For years, community advocates like Frank LaMere fought to end alcohol sales in Whiteclay, but as is often the case, the alcohol industry was a powerful adversary.

The complicated history of these two communities, which dates back to the 1880s, was captured during a yearlong effort by journalism students who set out to explore the connection between the liquor stores of Whiteclay and the many problems at the reservation—problems that stemmed from high alcohol use, including alcoholism, suicide, infant mortality, fetal alcohol syndrome, and crime.

Ultimately, Whiteclay’s liquor stores closed – all were denied renewal of their licenses in 2016.

The story of how Whiteclay’s policies changed is a fascinating one, and the student journalists’ stories earned them the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism grand prize.

The advocates, stories, and history behind this ultimate victory have been captured in a stunning web site, “The Wounds of WhiteClay: Nebraska’s Shameful Legacy.” We encourage you to visit the site and learn more about this extraordinary community and the committed group of advocates who went against the alcohol industry—and won.

We know there are countless more communities like Whiteclay, so when Texans Standing Tall learned of its story, we knew we had to share it with you.

Activist Frank LaMere weeps upon hearing about unanimous decision to revoke liquor licenses.
Tis the Season

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!
Tis the Season

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.
Tis the Season

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!

Tis the Season

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.