Blog

Texas Cancer Plan: Evidence-Based Policies Can Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Risk

In our most recent post, we recognized Breast Cancer Awareness Month by exploring the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

But breast cancer is just one of several types of cancer associated with alcohol consumption – head and neck, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer are among the others. And the link between alcohol and these types of cancer is not hypothetical, anecdotal, or mythical; there is strong scientific consensus since “clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of some cancers.”

Increasing public awareness and education about this connection can be challenging for those of us working in the field of prevention. Which is why we are inspired by a new development.

Last month, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas released their 2018 Texas Cancer Plan. The plan includes 16 goals defined as “broad and lofty” statements that will help guide the state’s action plan for cancer research, prevention, and control.

At Texans Standing Tall, we took special note of Goal #2, which focuses on increasing healthy behaviors to reduce new cases and deaths from cancer. In particular, we were pleased to see that the plan instructs Texans to “support evidence-based policies to address excessive consumption of alcohol, including limits on days of sale, hours of sale, increasing alcohol taxes and regulating alcohol outlet density.”

What is so promising to those of us at TST and our partners across the state is that the language we use every single day in our work – terms like “evidence-based policies” and “alcohol outlet density” – are being articulated in an important report like the Texas Cancer Plan.

These are not simply industry buzz words, and the Texas Cancer Plan is absolutely on target: the strategies they list are proven ways to reduce underage and excessive alcohol use – and the associated cancer risk that comes along with it. They are also critical strategies in achieving a greater mission to create healthier, safer communities; a mission that becomes more possible as these terms become part of our public discourse and policy discussions.

According to the plan, it’s estimated that 44,713 Texans will lose their lives to cancer. Yet nearly 50 percent of new cancers and death from cancers can be prevented if we take the recommended steps to reduce certain risk factors. For example, increasing the alcohol excise tax by a dime a drink would mean at least 77 fewer Texans would die from cancer every year. In addition to saving individual lives, it also means that 77 fewer families would suffer from the devastating loss of a loved one. (See chart below for estimated annual reductions in cancer mortality.)

Statewide policies that reduce access to alcohol and other cancer-causing drugs, like tobacco, will literally save lives in the long run. As the Texas Legislature prepares for its next session in January, consider joining Texans Standing Tall or your local coalition to get involved in the conversation and play a role in preventing cancer deaths.

Source: “Alcohol Attributable Cancer Deaths” addendum from The Effects of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Public Health and Safety in Texas

 

 

 

 

The Link Between Alcohol and Breast Cancer

In her powerful article, “Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer?”, Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer explores the link between alcohol and breast cancer. What she discovered may be more relevant to your kids’ experiences with underage drinking than you might think.

Diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 47 – 15 years younger than the median age in the U.S. –  the journalist embarked on her own personal journey that included conducting extensive research, which led her to a shocking truth she was unaware of until she was diagnosed: the link between alcohol and breast cancer, she learned, is “deadly solid.”

Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, but it kills more women from breast cancer than from any other.

I’m a pretty voracious reader of health news, and all of this came as a shock. I’d been told red wine was supposed to defend against heart disease, not give you cancer.

Mencimer drank in her younger years in a Mormon community in Utah, “where we distinguished ourselves from the future missionaries in the public schools with excessive drinking.” (It’s interesting to note that in Utah, Mormon women’s breast cancer rates are more than 24 percent lower than the national average.)

As an adult, though, she spent her life regularly going to the doctor for check-ups, eating right, and exercising regularly. She breastfed her children and avoided plastics, sugar, and pesticides. She had no family history of breast cancer. Still, she wrote, “not once has any doctor suggested I might face a higher cancer risk if I didn’t cut back on drinking.”

This begs the question: if educated adults dedicated to healthy lifestyles aren’t aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer, how are our kids supposed to know about it?

Mencimer explores the potential effects of excessive alcohol at a young age in her article:

Ninety percent of alcohol consumption by underage Americans is binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks on one occasion, according to the CDC. I’ll never know for sure, but all the drinking I did in my adolescence may have helped pave the way for the cancer I got at 47.

The average age youth in Texas report drinking their first alcoholic beverage is 12.6, which is also the average age of a seventh grader.

We already know that the longer kids wait to take their first drink, the lower the odds are that they’ll develop alcohol abuse or dependence as adults. They’re also less likely to experience the negative consequences of underage drinking – things like alcohol-related car crashes, unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, abuse of other drugs, or even death from alcohol poisoning.

These are things we should be talking to our kids about on a regular basis. But should we also be talking about reducing their risk of cancer later in life?

Absolutely.

For cancer prevention, alcohol consumption is one of largest avoidable risk factors. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that for every drink consumed daily, the risk of breast cancer goes up 7 percent. Moreover, 12 percent of female breast cancer diagnoses are attributable to alcohol consumption.

Our children may not be interested in percentages, and they may not fully comprehend that their future risk of cancer increases with underage drinking. But they need to know that underage drinking has consequences that extend beyond the most obvious ones like drinking and driving.

Time and time again, research tells us that parents play a critical role in their child’s decision to drink underage. Recent research out of Australia also reveals that, like adults, most young people don’t know about the link between alcohol and cancer. However, those aged 14-17 are less likely to drink if they are aware that the link exists. The report highlights the need for parents to educate their children on this kind of health issue in addition to modeling responsible drinking behaviors.

This October, we want to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the opportunity it provides to talk to our children about the C-word. As parents, we can do our part to arm them with basic knowledge so that they aren’t surprised to discover, as Mencimer was, that their choices today may affect them tomorrow.

If you’re interested in learning more about alcohol and cancer in Texas, check out the “Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths” addendum from our report, The Effects of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Public Health and Safety in Texas.

 

 

Facts About E-Cigarettes

 

In less than a decade, the rise in the use of ENDS – or electronic nicotine delivery systems — coupled with a lack of knowledge about the effects of inhaling their vapor (known as “vaping”) has led to a major public health concern.

ENDS devices include e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, e-hookah, and other vaping devices that produce an aerosolized mixture containing flavored liquids and nicotine. They are relatively new products that continue to grow in number and popularity, especially among young users.

Since they first came onto the market, we’ve learned a lot about ENDS – namely, about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and vaping, the lack of industry regulation, and perceptions among youth. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot we don’t know—and likely won’t know until the industry is fully regulated.

But one thing is clear: there’s enough evidence to know e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems cause harm, and we must work to prevent their use among young people.

We’ve compiled some of the lesser-known facts about ENDS from a variety of sources, and we’ve included several associated links so that you can learn more about any given fact.

Overall Use and Popularity

Long-Term Use and Associated Risks

Perception and Awareness

Industry

TST has worked with dozens of communities in Texas to become smoke-free – and now make sure they include ENDS in their local policies. We will continue our efforts to collaborate with prevention groups on their local efforts to eliminate and reduce tobacco use for the health and safety of our kids and communities. If you have any questions or want more information about what you can do in your community on this issue or other tobacco-related issues, please contact Steve at SRoss@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501.

Back to School Checklist: College Edition

If you’ve found yourself standing in your child’s unoccupied bedroom and contemplating a home gym, you might be one of the thousands of Texas parents who have sent their young adults off to college this fall.

By now, your student is settling into their new dorm room or apartment, getting used to new routines, new environments, and newfound freedom. For some students, all this new-ness can be overwhelming. Especially when you factor in the new opportunities for drinking and attending parties without adult supervision.

After all, rates of alcohol use are higher for college students than for their non-college-attending peers. And for freshman, the first six weeks of college are “the most vulnerable time for harmful and underage college drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.”

As a parent, you may be thinking your job is done and you’ve laid the best foundation you can. Your baby has left the nest and must now learn to fly.

But there’s much to be said (and a lot of research) about continuing to stay involved in your kids’ lives, even from afar, and how it can have an impact on their decision-making processes. And in 2018, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to check in with your kid. (Think back to when you were their age: Remember long-distance phone calls that charged by the minute? And collect calls that cost as much a biology textbook?)

Pre-college talks and regularly reaching out to your student – through email, FaceTime, Skype, or an old-fashioned phone call – can be key to helping them achieve academic success while staying safe and healthy. And a conversation doesn’t have to be a lecture about the dangers of drinking alcohol, it can truly be a conversation. (See below for a list of questions that can help you jumpstart those talks.)

Whether they’re in middle school, high school, or college, your child is never too old to continue having conversations with you about the dangers and unintended consequences of underage drinking. You might even want to consider making your position on underage drinking official. (We love this family agreement form, courtesy of SAHMSA.) It’s also important to remind your child that, despite what people may say or think, drinking isn’t the norm for all college students. In fact, a lot of them (about 40%) don’t drink at all.

Still, your student may not be affected by statistics – like the fact that more than 1,500 college students die each year because of drinking. And they may not blink if you tell them more than 1/3 of college students report binge drinking within the last month. (These are the kinds of statistics that keep parents, not kids, awake at night!)

But knowing you are concerned and interested in their lives, especially in their first year of college, can have a profound impact on their drinking behavior. And research does show that if your kids clearly know that you do not condone drinking underage, they are less likely to do it. That kind of influence will keep them safe and healthy long after they’ve flown the nest.

At Texans Standing Tall, we also care about your college student’s success! For additional resources, support, or information about our college alcohol prevention efforts, contact Tammy Peck at tpeck@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501.

YLC Opens Doors for Young Leaders

2017-2018 YLC Members with TST Staff

Our Youth Leadership Council (YLC) provides a platform for young activists who believe in our mission and want to be a part of building healthier, safer communities. Every year, we welcome a mix of returning and new members who want to work with our staff to make sure alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs have no place in the lives of youth.

Oftentimes, youth who join the Youth Leadership Council are already working hard to make a positive difference in their local communities. Every year, YLC members further hone their leadership skills by attending two skills-building trainings, TST’s Statewide Summit, and monthly conference calls. In addition to those activities, members also get the chance to further engage in prevention work. As members of the YLC, youth strengthen their critical thinking skills and enhance their ability to advocate for community change. Because of the training and support they receive, youth often re-apply to the YLC and serve multiple years as members. During their time with TST, new doors open – and new opportunities for them to shine are created.

Each year, TST selects at least two youth to attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Mid-Year Training Institute with TST staff. At the conference, YLC members participate in CADCA’s 4-day Youth Leadership Training, where they are able to connect with and learn from other youth who are working on similar prevention issues around the country.

In 2016, YLC co-chair Andrea Marquez attended the CADCA training with TST for the first time. Inspired by her experience, she applied to be a part of CADCA’s Youth Leadership initiative and has since become a trainer for the program, where she’s helping the next wave of young leaders become passionate about prevention. But that’s not the only area where Andrea has put her leadership skills to use. In addition to her work with CADCA, Andrea is involved in several other community service organizations and has presented on the issue of youth engagement in prevention work at multiple national conferences. Continuing on her remarkable path of public service, Andrea will soon start her freshman year at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, where she’ll major in political science. (Watch the video below to hear Andrea’s speech about youth empowerment and prevention at CADCA’s 19th Annual Drug-Free Kids Campaign Awards Dinner.)

Andrea's speech at CADCA

Last Thursday, our very own Youth Leadership Council Member, Andrea Marquez, spoke at CADCA's 19th Annual Drug-Free Kids Campaign Awards Dinner. Andrea shared her passion for youth empowerment as well as her involvement with prevention efforts in her community in partnership with Texans Standing Tall. Congrats Andrea!

Posted by Texans Standing Tall, Inc. on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

Youth Leadership Council co-chair Katy Turner has also demonstrated stellar leadership skills in her time as a YLC member. Her passion for youth alcohol and other drug prevention shines through in her work with the YLC and other community organizations to which she dedicates her time. In addition to presenting with TST on effective youth engagement at national conferences like CADCA Mid-Year Training Institute and the 18th National Alcohol Policy Conference (AP18), she was one of three YLC members who received a Traffic Safety Scholarship for the Lifesavers National Conference. An incoming junior at the University of Houston, Katy also served on the Board of Directors for the local prevention coalition in her home town of Lufkin, TX.

Along with Katy, second-year YLC member Nikolai Petty and fourth-year YLC member Jesus Cabrales, received Traffic Safety Scholarships to the Lifesavers Conference. The conference was particularly eye-opening for Nikolai since he hopes to become a police chief of a major Texas city one day. Attending Lifesavers not only allowed him to receive educational training alongside current law enforcement officers, but further strengthened his resolve to join their ranks once he’s completed his studies at El Paso Community College.

For Jesus, who also hopes to work in law enforcement or run for public office one day, the conference was a great way to gain exposure to the many opportunities available in the worlds of prevention and public safety. In addition to attending Lifesavers, Jesus, an incoming senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, is involved in his local church and advocacy organizations and has co-presented with TST staff at the Texas Interdisciplinary Addiction (TXIA) Institute in San Antonio. Stepping further into his role as a young leader, Jesus recently joined the TST Board of Directors, where he will use his voice to help guide TST’s prevention efforts in Texas.

Nikolai Petty, Katy Turner, and Jesus Cabrales at the 2018 Lifesavers Conference

Outside of conferences, YLC members are often found doing amazing work in their very own backyards. 5-year Youth Leadership Council member A.J. Cortez joined the YLC to work on changing people’s perception of alcohol in his community. Having joined the YLC at age 15 – a rare occurrence for the group – he has experienced tremendous growth both inside and outside of the YLC. The skills he’s gained over the years have helped him take on even more leadership roles when he started his undergraduate studies at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX. Now a senior majoring in social work, he is a mentor for the Leadership Initiative for Freshman Excellence, a Resident Assistant, and a member of the Worden Social Work Organization. He’s also a 2-time recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work serving Texas communities.

Nathaniel Fomby is another long-standing YLC member whose skills and commitment to public service have been honed during his time on the council. An incoming senior at Concordia University, Nathaniel joined the YLC four years ago because of his interest in the effects of alcohol and public policy. He has spent this summer serving as the Youth Engagement Intern for TST. In this role, he has been able to directly apply his academic interests while also gaining professional experience. In just a few short months, Nathaniel has assisted with the development of webinars, activities and presentations focused youth engagement. He has also helped identify content for TST’s website as well as supported the organization’s day-to-day operations by participating in staff meetings and keeping educational materials updated and organized.

We strongly believe that the Youth Leadership Council helps open doors and inspire youth to fully embrace the power they have to create positive change. These young leaders have advocated to lawmakers, spoken to rooms full of experts, and tackled local prevention work in their hometowns and communities. We are proud of their individual accomplishments and what they mean, collectively, for the future of Texas.

Are you interested in becoming a part of the Youth Leadership Council or do you know a young leader who might be? Applications are open until September 15th! Click here to apply.

A.J. Cortez and Nathaniel Fomby at a YLC Summer Training

 

Back-to-School Checklist: Middle and High School Edition

 

It’s mid-August and chances are, you’ve checked most of the back-to-school items off your list: school supplies, haircuts, new shoes, text books. You want your kids to be prepared, and you’re willing to navigate long lines and late nights to make sure they’re all set.

But are your kids just as prepared for the changes and peer pressure that come with each new year of middle and high school? Do they know where they’ll face the biggest pressure and how they’ll handle it? As a parent, even if you’re armed with information, how do you make sure your kids will listen?

The average age youth in Texas report drinking their first alcoholic beverage is 12.6, which is also the average age of a seventh grader. But in all likelihood, your child isn’t getting their alcohol at late-night raves or bars or dance clubs. The majority of middle and high schoolers get alcohol at home, from friends, or at parties.

For middle schoolers, this usually means drinking with 3-4 friends in their own home or at a friend’s house. For high school students, most drinking happens at house parties, which are often in the homes of friends or family. The parties usually take place when adults are away or simply unaware drinking is taking place under their roof. In other cases, parents are home and aware there is underage drinking occurring; they might even be supplying the alcohol.

As your kids continue to grow and encounter new experiences when they’re not under your watchful eye, how do you help keep them safe without locking them up until they’re 21?

Research says that if your message – don’t drink until you’re 21 – is clear, your child is less likely to drink than if you communicate a message that says, “I know you’re going to drink no matter what I say, so just be safe.”

Talking with your kids about alcohol isn’t an easy task, but there are some great resources available to help you have those conversations. We love these suggestions from Dr. Laura Markham over at Aha! Parenting. On her list of 15 suggestions for talking to your child about alcohol, she suggests parents try to “coach instead of control” and practice role-playing scenarios with their child.

Coach Instead of Trying to Control

You can’t actually control your child when she’s out of your sight. But you can help her become a person who has good values and good judgment. You do that by modeling and by talking. Ask questions to help your child reflect on what’s important to her and who she wants to be. Then listen hard. You’ll learn a lot from her answers.

  • Why do you think it’s illegal for kids and teens to drink alcohol?
  • What would you do if you were in a car and the driver had been drinking?
  • What about if the driver was a grown-up, like the parent of a friend?
  • Do you know any adults who drink too much? What do you think of them?
  • Have you ever thought that I drank too much? Acted differently when I drank alcohol?
  • Do you know any kids who have tried alcohol or drugs? Do you think that’s a problem?
  • Why do you think kids try alcohol?
  • When do you think kids are ready to try alcohol?
  • What do the kids at your school do at parties? Have you been to a party like that?
  • Have you ever been offered a drink? How did you handle it? Were you tempted? Why or why not?
  • What could you say if you were offered a drink and you didn’t want to look foolish?
  • What could you do at a party if you were feeling a little nervous, besides drinking?
  • What would you do if you were at a party and someone passed out from drinking alcohol?
  • Would you be worried about becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs? Why or why not? 

Have Practice Conversations with Your Child

Talk with him about the various scenarios he might encounter and the decisions he might have to make. What might he do or say? For instance, if someone offers him a drink:

  • No, thanks, I’m the designated driver.
  • No, thanks, I want to keep a clear head tonight.
  • No, thanks, I don’t drink.
  • No, thanks, my playing on the team is too important to me.
  • No, thanks, I’m allergic to alcohol.
  • No thanks, I love my cokes plain.
  • No, thanks. My parents would ground me forever if they found out — and they always do!

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a lot of resources to help parents talk to their kids about alcohol.  Along with SAMHSA, we encourage you to “Talk. They Hear You.”  This summer, set aside some time before classes get started to talk with your kids about alcohol, peer pressure, and the decisions they may face in the new school year. They may not want to open up at first (and you may feel nervous asking questions, but don’t let that stop you!), but once they do and these conversations take place, they’re more likely to make choices that keep them healthy and safe.

To help get you started on these conversations, we’ve created a checklist of talking points below. If you have any other advice for talking to your kids about alcohol, be sure to share your tips with us in the comments!

E-Cigarettes Are an Unregulated Threat to Our Kids

Did you know that it’s still a bit like the wild, wild west when it comes to regulating e-cigarettes and other vaping products? Aside from having to be 18 to purchase or use them, there’s basically nothing in place to regulate the products themselves.

In fact, last year, e-cigarette companies were given an extension on a deadline to apply for FDA clearance. The extension pushed the deadline to August of 2022, giving these companies more time to keep their products on the market before they are reviewed by the federal agency.

As troublesome as the lack of regulation may be, it’s especially terrifying given that teens are turning to vaping and e-cigarettes in growing numbers. In Texas, 25% of middle and high school students say they’ve tried some sort of electronic vapor product, even though no long-term studies or scientific research supports the common misperception that they are better for you than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Part of the problem is that once young people start using electronic devices, use of traditional cigarettes could come next – teen e-cigarette users are 23 percent more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within six months of use than teens who don’t use e-cigarettes. In fact, one pediatric pulmonologist says electronic smoking devices have become “the new way to get kids addicted to nicotine.”

Indeed, addiction is occurring, thanks in part to sleek, small products like Juul e-cigarettes making their way into the hands (and classrooms) of kids. In addition to being discreet enough for kids to sneak into school, the appeal – and addictive nature – of Juuls may be partly due to the fact that they “provide a nicotine hit that’s much more like smoking a cigarette than other e-cigs.”

It’s not just the popularity of Juuls that we should be concerned about though. The CDC has also found that e-cigarette ads target millions of kids using some of the same tactics that the tobacco industry used years ago. Thanks to TV, movies, Internet, magazines, retail stores, sports and music marketing, and celebrity endorsements, young people are seeing e-cigarette ads on a daily basis. This type of exposure – along with the creation of flavored products that are appealing to youth – may also have something to do with the growing number of young e-cigarette users.

Given that a tobacco company once referred to young adult smokers as “replacement smokers,” the current attempt to entice youth with flavored products and “fun” marketing should come as no surprise. The tobacco industry – which has taken over the e-cigarette industry – knows that it needs young people to start smoking so their business doesn’t eventually go away.

There does seem to be some good news: since the FDA extended the deadline for e-cigarette companies to receive agency clearance, the FDA also has begun to crack down on the industry’s intentional and harmful targeting to children. The agency sent warning letters in May of 2018 to companies that “misleadingly labeled or advertised nicotine-containing e-liquids as kid friendly food products such as juice boxes, candies, and cookies.” (How can they not be marketing to youth when products resemble junk food products and have names like “Smurf Sauce” and “V’Nilla Cookies & Milk”?) FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that these companies have “a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use.”

And yet, this is what we’re seeing…

 

 

 

 

While the marketing crackdown is a great step forward, there’s still more to do while we wait for the FDA to review these products in 2022. Ninety percent of adult smokers start smoking in their teens or earlier – prevention efforts are critical now.

It’s important for parents and kids to talk about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use (from addiction and harmful toxins in e-liquids to future risk of cancer and heart and lung disease) – not to mention the unfortunate reality that youth are being directly and deliberately targeted through advertising.

There’s still so much work to be done to keep our kids safe from these harmful products, but thankfully, there are opportunities for adults and youth alike to get engaged in community prevention efforts.

Consider getting involved in Tobacco 21 or comprehensive smoke-free initiatives and join your local coalitions to become more involved in tobacco prevention efforts in your communities. Want more information on tobacco-related issues?  Contact Coalition Specialist Steve Ross at SRoss@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501.

Conflict of Interest

Would you trust a study about the benefits of soda funded by The Coca-Cola Company?

Probably not.

So when the National Institutes of Health ordered the halt of a $100 million, 10-year study of moderate drinking in mid-May, prevention groups – including Texans Standing Tall – applauded the move.

That’s because the controversial study was being funded in large part by the alcoholic beverage industry—Anheuser Busch InBev, Heineken, and other industry giants were giving donations to a private foundation that supports the NIH. Roughly two-thirds of the funding for the study was coming from liquor and beer companies.

According to the NIH Director himself, “This particular study was set up in such a way that the funding is largely coming from the beverage industry and there is evidence that NIH employees assisted in recruiting those funds for this study in a way that would violate our usual policies.”

The New York Times reported that the study was being billed as the kind that “could change the American diet, a huge clinical trial that might well deliver all the medical evidence needed to recommend a daily alcoholic drink as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

The problem is that the people being billed – liquor company representatives – had a heavily vested interest in the outcome of the study.

We all stand to lose since results skewed in the industry’s favor would likely promote and encourage unhealthy drinking behaviors. Ultimately, this would negatively affect individuals’ health and public health.

The potential damage a study like this could have on prevention is tremendous. For decades, prevention organizations have been working at the forefront to reduce excessive alcohol use and counter the increasing normalization of consumption – especially among young people. In recent years, we’ve had to work overtime to combat the rise in marketing and promotion by the alcohol industry, which has slowly convinced us that alcohol consumption is good for our health.

A study like this one would make it more challenging to debunk these dangerous myths, reversing decades of important work in prevention, awareness, and education. Critics also worry the research would not fully capture the harms and risks associated with drinking. Another concern? No other long-term trial “had ever asked participants to drink, much less drink every day.” With existing research showing that drinking daily can have negative health effects, this study seems ill-conceived and potentially dangerous. (Keep in mind, this was a long-term study that was supposed to include about 7,000 people drinking daily over the course of several years.)

Because the study has only been suspended, there is still a possibility it will resume. But critics and advocacy groups have been vocal about the importance of stopping this study for good, and there is pressure on the NIH to distance itself from the alcohol industry after the perceived “cozying up to Big Alcohol.”

In the meantime, we will continue to monitor any news relating to the NIH study and continue working with prevention groups across Texas to dispel myths, educate the public, and reduce underage alcohol use to help create healthier, safer communities.

Want to support our efforts? You can follow us on social media, join your local coalition, make a one-time or recurring financial gift to fund our work, or contact us to learn more and get involved!

Drinking to Cope with Parenthood Has Reached “Meme” Status

We’ve recently noticed – and perhaps you have too – a lot of internet memes, Instagram photos, ads, merchandise, and even events that make light of drinking to deal with the challenges of parenthood. At first, we didn’t think too much of it and maybe even gave some of the jokes a little chuckle. But once we started paying attention, we really started noticing it, and it became more and more troubling. What message are we sending our kids? That they’re so bad they drive us to drink? Or that drinking is the best way to cope with stress? Take a look for yourself:


Despite mountains of research telling us drinking alcohol is not the best way to deal with stress, we continue to see a growing collection of these types of things. It made us wonder – when did the alcohol industry decide parents were the ideal target?

From sponsoring wine and beer events for moms and dads to advertising gifts on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we’re shifting the cultural norms to something that ultimately, is not healthy for our children.

But, the more we see the social media posts, ads, t-shirts, mugs, and on and on and on, the more normal it becomes. Not only do we believe that “everyone else is drinking,” we believe it’s warranted. However, for every pretty photo of a happy hour cocktail shared on Instagram, there’s a real-life consequence to our parent drinking culture: our kids are watching, and we’re normalizing alcohol use for them, too.

We’ve shifted our cultural norms so that our kids see us treating alcohol like it’s any ol’ drink – soda, juice, coffee, tea. But it’s not. At its core, alcohol is a drug that can have severely negative consequences – especially when young people use it.

So, we don’t want to just brush this culture shift off. We want to join others in calling it out for what it is: exploitative marketing capitalizing on the difficulties of parenting.

We’re not saying parents should never relax and unwind with a glass of wine or a cold one here and there. But the fact of the matter is, parents have a huge influence over their children’s future drinking habits.

Case in point, this internet post of a child’s response to a school assignment asking them to write one sentence about a family member and draw a picture:

More often than not, our children will adopt the behaviors we model for them. If we tell our kids not to drink to fit in or deal with difficulties, but they then see us drinking to “cope with the stresses of parenting,” what message are we giving them, and what behavior are they going to copy?

Parenting is hard. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the world, and it can seem flat out overwhelming at times. Building connections and getting support from others is an important and meaningful way to strengthen our villages so we can keep our kids healthy and safe.

At the same time, it’s important for us to pay more attention to the messaging we’re being fed when it comes to parental drinking behaviors – it’s a kind of manipulation that is so pervasive, we may not even recognize it as marketing. However, being aware of it and knowing that our behavior influences the future behavior of our children might encourage more of us to scroll past that “mommy juice” meme on Facebook without giving it a “like.”

What kind of messages about parental drinking have you all seen circulating lately? Are they more pervasive with the rise of social media? What concerns do you have about this type of consumer marketing strategy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

TST Working with Coalitions Across Texas

 

Summer may be a time for slowing down, but Texans Standing Tall is ramping up our work with coalitions across the state this season.

Whether we’re traveling to the Rio Grande Valley for media training or headed to Tyler for stakeholder meetings, we’re focused on reaching prevention groups and helping them achieve their missions by working together with advocates, activists, and local leaders.

In May, TST’s Research & Program Specialist Kaleigh Becker traveled to Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley to meet with safety experts, lead a focus group, and collaborate with various coalitions on strategies to reduce impaired driving and underage alcohol use. Attendees also received an in-person demo of our online searchable coalitions tool, which helps individuals and organizations connect to leverage resources and enhance prevention efforts. Additionally, Strategy Specialist Anne-Shirley Schreiner and Director of Community Outreach & Education Georgianne Crowell hit the road to train local advocates, law enforcement, and youth on media and community engagement. The trainings helped the coalitions grow their efforts to address underage alcohol use in their communities.

This June, the road trips continue as we visit multiple cities – including Fort Worth, Tyler, and Waxahachie – to meet with transportation safety experts, state agencies, and university advocates on effective strategies for reducing alcohol use and impaired driving among youth. We’ll also spend some time in Hood County, training youth and adults on how to partner to create positive community change.

In July, we’ll head to to Blanco County to train coalition members on strategies for preventing youth substance use, then help them build a roadmap to success for doing just that. Later on this summer, we’ll make our way to East Texas for a controlled party dispersal training, where we’ll train local law enforcement on ways to safely and effectively break up underage drinking parties.

If you live in one of the communities mentioned above and would like to learn more about what we’ll be doing and how you can get involved when we visit your area, be sure to let us know!

Through training, education, and collaboration, we hope to significantly reduce the incidences of underage drinking – and the consequences that go along with it – in our communities. We know we are most effective when we can directly engage with local leaders and advocates who are passionate and mission-driven.

As we meet with and train coalitions throughout the state, we’re encouraged to learn that communities are excited to have additional opportunities for education and collaboration.

We know the best way to build healthier and safer communities is by exploring ways we can work hand-in-hand with groups that are committed to raising awareness, advocating for substance use prevention, and building a Texas in which alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use have no place in the lives of youth.

Are you involved in your local prevention coalition? Are you interested in learning more about working with us directly? If so, please reach out to Georgianne Crowell at gcrowell@texansstandingtall.org or 512- 442-7501. We’d love to work with you!

Coalition members in Pharr getting interviewed for the local news:

Training youth and law enforcement in Pharr: