Adults: Your Support is the Difference

In my four years as a member of Texans Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC), I have grown as a person in ways I never expected. I developed leadership skills, gained experience with public speaking, and acquired the tools necessary to become an outspoken advocate in my community. I gained all of this and more because the YLC pushed me to reach my potential and become an active and engaged citizen.

Adults in my community were very supportive of me and Texans Standing Tall’s vision to prevent young people from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Through my presentations at TST’s annual Statewide Summit and other events like the Texas Interdisciplinary Addiction Institute (TXIA), I was able to network with fellow El Pasoans, which opened the door to new opportunities. I was able to work with U In the Driver seat at my university, and I was asked to help give a presentation at Aliviane, one of the local coalitions in El Paso. The support from these organizations back at home helped give me the drive I needed – and the hope that we could indeed reduce drinking and other drug use among youth.

Today, in my new role as the youngest board member for Texans Standing Tall, I will continue to push myself and remain an active member of my community.

But I also have a new goal for myself: to do more to encourage adults to become involved in Texans Standing Tall and the Youth Leadership Council.

How can adults help youth like me? They can start by encouraging up-and-coming leaders.

Teenagers don’t necessarily feel like they have the potential to make an impact in their community. An adult who believes in them, encourages them to fight for what they think is right, and helps them embrace their hidden potential can make all the difference in our pursuit of leadership roles. Some are born leaders, but others are made leaders. Adults can help young people become future leaders by pushing us beyond what we think we are capable of.

Some concrete suggestions for how to lift up young leaders:

  • Take the time to learn more about any organization they care about or are involved in. This means asking questions as well as doing some of your own research, from looking at websites to engaging on social media pages.
  • Attend a meeting with them, if you’re allowed. (It doesn’t hurt to ask!)
  • If you can’t attend a meeting, give them a ride. This lets them know you support them and are prioritizing their involvement.
  • Talk to other adults about the organization(s) your child or young friend is involved in. Spreading the word about their work through conversations can inspire other adults to talk to their kids about becoming active in an organization.
  • Make an investment in the organization your young leader is involved in. This could come in the form of a monetary donation or volunteering for an event.

In my new role on the board of directors, I pledge to engage adults in El Paso and beyond; to encourage them to get involved in the work young people are doing to build safe and drug-free communities. Our generation can’t do this alone – creating a safe and drug-free Texas is going to require collaboration between young people and the adults in our lives.

As a board member at Texans Standing Tall, I know my role is more important than ever before. I have to represent this organization beyond my El Paso community and serve as an embodiment of what it stands for. I look forward to continuing the work I do for a vision and mission I love and believe in.

 

Why We Should Raise the Tobacco Sale Age in Texas


Image Source: Tobacco21.org

Tobacco is still the number 1 preventable cause of death in Texas. Annually, 12,300 new Texas youth become daily smokers. A shocking one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

Smokers get hooked at a young age, with about 95% of smokers starting before age 21. In Texas, 10,400 kids under 18 become new daily smokers each year. And, because many high school seniors turn 18 while still in school, friends and classmates are a common source of tobacco products for these underage users. But we can begin to tackle these trends – and help keep tobacco out of schools – by raising the tobacco sales age in Texas to 21.

Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 is an effective strategy to fight tobacco use, and it’s gaining momentum nationwide. Six states have raised their tobacco sale ages to 21, along with more than 360 cities and counties across the country.

San Antonio recently became the first city in Texas to pass a Tobacco 21 law. Right now, there is an effort underway to get this done statewide during the next Texas legislative session.

With the rapid growth in e-cigarette use among young people – from 2017 to 2018, the number of high-school-age children saying they use e-cigarettes rose by more than 75 percent – there are many concerns that these types of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are becoming an “on-ramp for children to become addicted to nicotine.” These concerns seem warranted since “more high school kids are smoking cigarettes as vaping surges, reversing a two-decade-long decline.” Alarming statistics like these make it even more important for us to do everything we can to keep young people from smoking.

That’s one of the many reasons why we’re supporting our friends at Texas Tobacco 21, a coalition of organizations working with community partners like you to save lives by preventing tobacco use. Members of the coalition include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and American Lung Association, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Pediatric Society.

For Texas Tobacco 21 updates, visit texas21.org or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for their newsletter for more information about Tobacco 21 meetings and events taking place across 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.

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.

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!

 

Talks and Activities Can Help Prevent Summertime Underage Drinking

 

Your kids are out of school for the summer – but from 9 to 5, you’re still at the office.

How are your teenagers spending the dog days of summer? Are you involved in their day-to-day activities? Do you know where they’ll be, who they will be with, and what they’ll be doing? If they are hanging out at home and/or spending their time with friends, do you know their parents, and have you talked to them about underage drinking?

Though these conversations are important year-round, they’re especially critical in the summer time, when kids are also far more likely to have their first drink. After all, on an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids will start drinking. By comparison, that number averages 5,000 to 8,000 during the rest of the year.

If your child isn’t taking summer school, working a summer job, or otherwise occupied in the months ahead, they may find themselves with time on their hands – the kind of leisure that can lead to boredom and experimentation.

Your high schoolers, who may be spending their days hanging out at the lake, going to festivals, or attending parties – where kids overwhelming get their access to alcohol– need to know you don’t approve of them drinking alcohol. If they’re spending time at friends’ houses, where older siblings or adults might be willing to supply alcohol, your children are more likely to say no if you’ve clearly communicated that you don’t approve of underage drinking. It’s also important to talk to the parents of the peers your children are hanging out with about your expectations. But even when kids don’t drink, too often they get into cars with friends who have been drinking. So remind your kids that they should never ride with anyone who is driving after drinking (in cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.).

As adults, it is our job to create safe environments for children that are free of alcohol. This can include providing them with alternatives during their summer months so that they fill their days with fun, learning, and growth opportunities. Some free and affordable options might include:

  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter or nursing home
  • Swimming at the neighborhood pool
  • Starting a side business, such as dog walking, lawn mowing, or babysitting
  • Working through next year’s school reading list at the local library
  • Planting an herb or vegetable garden
  • Enrolling in a photography or writing class at your local community college

Finally, don’t leave alcohol available in your home; if you have alcohol in your home, lock it up.  You should also check in with parents to see if they have alcohol accessible in their home before your children hang out there.

There are endless ways to fill a summer day that don’t involve underage drinking. And, studies show 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. Preventing young people from drinking underage also means we’re protecting them from many of the negative consequences they’re more likely to experience when they drink – things like alcohol-related car crashes and other injuries (e.g., burns, falling, and drowning), unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, abuse of other drugs, or even death from alcohol poisoning.

We hope you’ll get involved in your kids’ daily activities and keep them safe and alcohol-free this summer. For more information about what you can do to help prevent underage drinking with your kids and in your community, contact us at TST@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501. And, if you have ideas about other safe and healthy activities for youth during the summer months, share them in the comments section down below!

Reflections from AP18

 

In April,  several Texans Standing Tall staff members attended the 2018 Alcohol Policy Conference (AP18) in Arlington, VA.

The conference is convened by the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance and brings together professionals in support of effective alcohol policy research and practice to tackle the enormous alcohol-related harm affecting our communities on a global scale. Texans Standing Tall is proud to have participated in the event by serving on the planning committee and as a sponsor, providing staff volunteers, and presenting during several sessions over the course of the week. (Scroll down for photos!)

We could write a novel filled with all of the great information discussed and disseminated at AP18, but some of the major highlights from the week include:

  • Multiple sessions with updated information on the link between alcohol and cancer, where we learned more about national and international efforts to educate the public on the issue. Currently, in the U.S., there is lack of public awareness regarding the connection between the two – only 30% of Americans identify alcohol as a risk factor for cancer. Moving forward, it will be critically important for prevention advocates to inform the public of the increased risk and address claims about the positive health benefits of alcohol consumption.
  • Ongoing conversations about the ways in which alcohol advertising influences youth alcohol use. In addition to studies examining the marketing practices the alcohol industry employs to target young people, we also learned about new tools like the Alcohol Marketing Assessment Rating Tool (AMART) that researchers have developed to quickly asses how well the alcohol industry is actually sticking to their self-regulated marketing codes. As advocates, we must continue to vigilantly monitor the alcohol industry’s advertising practices and hold them accountable when they market adult products to our youth.
  • A presentation on the CDC’s new guide to help measure and regulate alcohol outlet density to prevent excessive drinking and improve public health. We also heard about a new study from the Prevention Research Center of PIRE that explores the relationship between community problems and outlets that sell alcohol for off-premise consumption. It became even more clear that communities must work to identify and collect data (like place of last drink and crime levels near outlets) that help illustrate the issues associated with the number of outlets in a given area.
  • Learning inspiring lessons from advocates who worked tirelessly to get alcohol sales shut down in Whiteclay, Nebraska– an unincorporated town with less than 12 residents, but four beers stores that supplied more than 3.5 million cans of beer annually to residents of the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. For years, the community fought to close the stores, all the while experiencing high addiction rates and a number of devastating health outcomes like infant mortality, teen suicide, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Finally, on April 30, 2017, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission’s decision to deny the stores’ re-licensure applications went into effect. The story of Whiteclay is a good reminder that the road to victory can be long and challenging, but the power and persistence of people’s voices is undeniable.

The gathering of so many individuals committed to translating sound public policy into public health practice was inspiring. Texans Standing Tall staff members returned from AP18 with a renewed commitment to our prevention work across the state.

Here are just a few of the things staff had to say about their time at AP18:

“To be surrounded by such passionate individuals who share a common vision of a world free from alcohol-related death, disease, and injury – there is nothing else like it. It was an honor to attend a conference where so many of the people whose work I have been reading and learning about for years were in attendance. I’m grateful for their dedication and the positive impact they have on the world.” — Sachin Kamble, Peer Policy Fellow

“It was fascinating to see and hear from prevention super stars at AP18.  It was a passionate group of professionals coming together to inspire and strategize on how to shape alcohol policy.  I was proud to be a part of it.” — Tammy Peck, Higher Education Prevention Specialist

“I had the opportunity to attend the Advocacy Institute, which was conducted in conjunction with AP18. During one session, a nonprofit attorney, provided information about how nonprofits can work on public policy issues without threatening their tax exemption status. There was so much important information for those of us working in the public policy realm. I’m excited to put this information into action as we begin to tackle marijuana legalization efforts in Texas.” — Kaleigh Becker, Program and Research Specialist

 “Attending AP18 was a great opportunity to learn from leading experts in the field of alcohol prevention who were sharing new data that empowers individuals and coalitions to be the champions for change in their own communities across the world.” — Anne-Shirley Schreiner, Strategy Specialist

The AP conference truly is a great way to learn more about the latest data and most pressing issues related to alcohol research and policy in the United States and around the world. To learn more about it, visit alcoholpolicyconference.org and set your calendars for the next one in April 2020!

TST staff headed to AP18
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed TST staff ready for a full day of learning
Kaleigh Becker, TST’s Research & Program Specialist, sharing information about the Coalitions Project during her poster session
Tammy Peck, TST’s Higher Education Prevention Specialist, during her poster session on Screening & Brief Intervention
TST CEO Nicole Holt giving a presentation on Social Ordinances in Texas
YLC Co-Chair Katy Turner answering an audience question during a presentation about youth engagement with fellow YLC Co-Chair Andrea Marquez and TST’s Georgianne Crowell and Atalie Nitibhon
TST staff exploring the nation’s capital