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Speak Now addresses problem of teens and alcohol

By Andy Cohen

Special to The SUN

The Speak Now campaign, spearheaded by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Revenue, Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division, is alerting parents of how easy it is for teens to access alcohol across the state of Colorado.

An analysis of data provided by the State Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division found that, in the past two years, more than 516 liquor license holders in Colorado failed compliance checks for selling or serving alcohol to minors.  A full list of compliance check results by business name, license type, city, county or zip code can be seen at www.colorado.gov/apps/dor/mip/.

“The latest data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found sixty percent of Colorado high school students report alcohol is relatively easy to get if they want it,” said Stan Paprocki, director of prevention and early intervention for the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health. “Colorado parents can reduce teen drinking dramatically by letting their kids know the dangers of underage drinking, as well as working to limit the ways teens can access alcohol.”

The Speak Now campaign is a statewide effort created in response to alarming statistics showing Colorado ranked ninth in the country for teen binge drinking. The campaign recently partnered with Colorado’s Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division, which conducts compliance checks throughout the state to enforce laws. The Division also operates a recently launched Underage Drinking Enforcement website, funded by a federal grant, and a hotline that allows anyone in Colorado to anonymously report businesses they suspect of providing alcohol to minors. Those reports are then investigated and citations issued if investigators determine a violation has occurred.

“Our increased efforts to conduct compliance checks throughout the state and the industry’s efforts to train businesses and their employees on underage drinking laws have resulted in an increase in the percentage of businesses complying with underage drinking laws over the past few years,” said Patrick Maroney, chief of investigations, Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division. “But there is still plenty of work ahead.”

Direct purchase is one of several ways teens can get their hands on alcohol. Often, teens also access alcohol by taking it from their own homes, at family gatherings, at friends’ homes and from older siblings. It’s important parents know who their teens are hanging out with, and where they are spending their free time with summer vacations getting underway. These frequent conversations are ideal times for parents to make their rules about avoiding alcohol clear, and remind teens of all their options to avoid alcohol use.

Interestingly, 34 percent of Colorado middle school students say alcohol would be easy for them to get if they wanted it, and the rate increases to 60 percent once they reach high school. While the opportunities to use alcohol increase dramatically from middle school to high school, conversations about the dangers of teen drinking do not. Forty-five percent of middle school students say they had a conversation with their parents about alcohol in the past year, compared to 51 percent of high school students.

To assist in alcohol-related conversations this summer, parents can visit www.SpeakNowColorado.org. The comprehensive resource provides information ranging from how to bring up the issue of teen drinking, to text messages parents can send to their teens, as well as legal consequences of underage alcohol use and providing alcohol to teens.

About Speak Now 

The “Speak Now” campaign is part of the Colorado Prevention Partnership for Success (CPPS) statewide underage binge drinking initiative focused on implementing evidence-based substance abuse prevention practices, policies and approaches that build local and state prevention infrastructure in Colorado.

This story was posted on June 6, 2013.