In my previous blogs, I described seven of the 12 policies that were approved by the National Council of IOGT-USA last year.
In this blog I present Policies #8, #9, & #10, along with explanations as to why they are important. I conclude by offering suggestions for each as to how we as individuals, Chapters, and Councils might work to attain each of these goals.
So, we continue:
POLICY #8, DE-EMPHASIZE UNDERAGE DRINKING BY BANNING ALCOHOL PROMOTION AND ADVERTISING AT ALL UNIVERSITY SPORTS AND OTHER YOUTH EVENTS
We advocate that there be immediate emphasis placed on dealing with the alcohol use of middle school, high school, and underage college students. As a beginning, we strongly advocate a ban on alcohol sponsorship, including advertising be enacted in all athletic and other events where the participants are primarily under the age of 21. This would include all college and university sports.
When it comes to alcohol advertising, the alcohol industry has stated for years that it doesn’t target those under 21 years of age, yet the actual situation is dramatically different. For example, when it comes to college and university sports, the industry is a major source of advertising even though most of the collegiate participants in the sports are under 21. And a great portion of the fan base at the various colleges is also under 21. Furthermore, none of the athletes receive any compensation for there efforts as participants. This puts the industry in an awkward position of making money off of free labor, in addition to the promoting an illegal substance to minors.
This policy is also tied to the alcohol industries existing stated commitment to abstain, if you will, from targeting any of their products to young people in non-sports events as well. This commitment has been held to be highly suspect to various viewers of our media, what with the alcohol references in various teenage TV shows, including the Simpsons, product placement (use of actual alcoholic beverages in TV shows and movies), and the advertisements even on popular sports news programs.
Also the marketing of such items as “alcopops” and alcohol “fortified” energy drinks are additional ways to attract young people to experiment with alcohol.
This policy could be refashioned by the other Councils of the IOGT to restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages at FIFA and other such events in order to prevent violence and other problems at these events.
What can you do to advance this policy?
A. Make note of the various alcohol companies that sponsor various college sports and other activities, then write to these companies with copies to local newspapers and TV stations and complain about the alcohol industries (giving the names of the companies who are doing it) appealing to the underage drinker. If you live near a college, make note of companies that advertise in and around the campus.
B. Write to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) or the equivalent agency in your country, to protest these companies’ exploitation of underage students. Emphasize how this goes against all that the alcohol companies have pledged not to do and how they continue to appeal to the younger potential drinker.
C. Note all of the ways that alcohol companies sponsor various activities that include underage students, including just making t-shirts or hats available at certain functions or events. Register your objections to the company involved and to the government agency regulating the company.
D. Note also the content, product placement, and other marketing devices as well as the advertising itself on TV, magazines, and the Internet on material especially geared for teenage viewing. What conclusions do you draw from all of this? Share these ideas with several teenagers to get their responses to all of this.
POLICY #9, EMPHASIZE TO ALL THE VULNERABILITY OF YOUTH TO THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ESPECIALLY ON BRAIN DEVELOPMENT AND POSSIBLE ADDICTION
We advocate that a major emphasis on young people’s health and physical development be made to inform young people, parents, and others of the effect of alcohol on the youths’ behavior, brain development, and other potential dangers of alcohol, including addiction (alcoholism).
Modern research has discovered the influence of alcohol consumption on the development of the young child from the pre-natal stage where the child’s subjection to alcohol in the uterus can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), with permanent damage done to the brain and to the body. This often can be followed by what seems to be a free wheeling approach of many families to alcohol use. One result of this approach to child rearing is that many children have their first alcohol beverage at the age of about 9 and in some cases much earlier, with the average age in the USA of first users being about age 12. This is of particular concern because these are the years of significant brain development and in particular the frontal lobe, the judgmental center of the brain.
Further research has discovered that youngsters under the age of 15 who use alcohol are 4 times more likely to become alcohol addicts than individuals who do not start using until they are 21. It is estimated that there are already over 4 million alcoholics among teenagers today in the USA – a quite frightening statistic.
This argument is also very relevant to those who may wish to lower the drinking age in the USA from 21 to 18. When the frontal lobe of the brain may take up to the age of 25 to develop fully, it does not seem advisable to lower the age of alcohol use.
All parents, teachers, caregivers, and the students themselves should be fully informed as to the seriousness of this aspect of our society. This has become a vitally new dimension of our society due to the fact that more women and mothers-to-be are now using alcohol when in the ‘old days’ alcohol use was primarily a male custom. We can trace the first medically identified FASD children back to about 1970, and with the increased drinking by teen-agers, we have seen the meteoric rise in teenage alcoholics.
What can you do to advance this policy?
A. Individually, you can check with the Health Department of your city, county, and even your state/province, to determine the number of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) births that have occurred in the last 5, 10, and 20 years.
B. Have a couple of members check with the junior and senior counselors at local high schools to see if there are any students who have repeated incidents which may be associated with alcohol use. If there might be a relationship developed between you and the counselor(s), you might even broach the topic of whether any students might be considered alcoholic (addicted to alcohol); and how such a student might be helped.
C. Contact church group youth leaders, high school health teachers, middle school and high school counselors and discuss these issues with them. See if they are able to use more information on the various topics, but especially on underage drinking.
POLICY #10, DRAMATICALLY STRENGTHEN THE MEASURES USED TO PREVENT DEATHS AND OTHER ABUSE IN COLLEGE TOWNS.
We advocate that strengthened measures be instituted by colleges, college towns, and the parents of the students to severely reduce the number of accidents, deaths, and other abuse caused by alcohol, with zero tolerance being an ultimate goal.
For many young people entering college, this is a time for ‘free living’ where they can do what they please without parental restrictions including alcohol use. In fact, each year many colleges are in the running to be judged the “party school of the year.” Many students design their class schedules so that they have no classes on Mondays or Fridays leaving far greater weekend time for partying.
As colleges have long since known, this is a very difficult issue to deal with. The costs both human and monetarily are staggering. Major American universities can pay out millions of dollars annually to deal with alcohol issues (Excessive Drinking Costs U.S. Colleges Millions Annually). Furthermore, the universities are dealing with a population that in 2005 had 1825 fatal casualties related to alcohol use, up from 1,442 in 1998. These students are our best and brightest, and for all practical purposes, our most healthy, athletic progeny. Why should even one person die of an alcohol related event?
At the same time, there is what has been called “the secondary effects of alcohol.” This includes all of the events that would not necessarily occur if no alcohol use were taking place. These events would include wild off-campus house parties which may go way beyond the party house, unwanted sex and other types of physical abuse, damaging neighborhood property along the routes from the bars to the dorms, and perhaps the wildest of events, literal drunken riots after winning or losing a basketball or football game such as occurred at Michigan State University among other colleges over the years.
Taverns and pubs contribute to this whole milieu by offering a variety of ways that students can get reduced rates on beer during (and often outside of) ‘happy hours,’ having free beer on Ladies Night, having set ups for party games like “Beer Pong,” etc.
What can you do to advance this policy?
A. If you live in a college town or close to one, contact their public relations department to find out what their official approach to alcohol is. How do they handle students under the age of 21? Do they permit alcohol in dorms and frat houses? Do they have any courses/training about alcohol use and abuse, including material on alcohol addiction? Do they have an alcohol counselor(s) who are able to provide therapy to students with alcohol problems? Then contact some students, ask the same questions and compare the results. Present your findings to your chapter and to us.
B. If you don’t live in or near a college town, write out the items in part A above in the form of questions and send your questions to the Dean of Students at a university to get the official approach to the subject. Then try to contact some students of that school during a spring or summer break and see if there is any correlation between the two reports.
C. If you do have access to a college town, go with a partner and visit a college bar after 10 pm on a Friday or Saturday night. Observe the general scene. Note if any students are binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one setting). Remember it only takes about 4 regular beers to make an average male attain a BAC level of .08 so you can tell just how many are there just to get really drunk. (Order a Perrier water and/or a soft drink for yourselves and remove the straws from the drink while you walk around and observe).
D. If you can, talk to some of the neighbors of “party houses” to find out what measures they have taken to stop the alcohol abuse that they suffer. Also, you might talk with neighbors along the routes from the bars to the dorms/fraternity and sorority to find out what they are doing to prevent “second hand alcohol abuse.”