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Parents often help teenagers get alcohol.

By Shari Roan Teenagers who have consumed alcohol die every week in the United States, most often in car crashes. But when a 16-year-old boy died in Asheville, NC, in April, Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore decided he'd seen enough. After investigating the incident, he charged 17 people for alcohol violations committed at a party the teenager had attended before driving drunk. Among those charged were adults who had hosted the party and another adult who had allegedly purchased beer for the teens. "I hope it will deter adults from providing the alcohol and making it easy for kids to get," says Moore of the charges. "Hopefully, word will get around that if you're an adult and you serve alcohol and something happens, you'll be held accountable." Across the nation, legislatures and law enforcement agencies have been increasingly willing to hold adults responsible for underage drinking and the problems such drinking creates. Now a new survey of teens and parents underscores the difficulties they face. In the study, released Monday, underage drinkers said they found it easy to obtain alcohol from an adult, particularly at parties. More than one-fourth of the teens said they had attended a party where kids consumed alcohol with parents present. And almost one-third of the teens said it was easy to get alcohol from their parents with their parents' knowledge. Far fewer teens reported getting alcohol using riskier methods, such as trying to buy it themselves or using a fake ID. Teen girls were found to be more effective than teen boys at obtaining alcohol, possibly because girls often date or socialize with older males who have access to alcohol. The results confirm how easy it is for teens to obtain alcohol from adults, either with their permission or surreptitiously. The Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the University of Michigan has found that, nationwide, about 75 percent of high school seniors and 39 percent of eighth-graders say they have consumed alcohol in the last year. "The perception out there is that 90 percent of teens get alcohol using fake IDs and by going to bars. That's not true," says Dr. J. Edward Hill, president of the American Medical Association. "They are getting it from social sources: parents, older friends, older siblings and others. Parents need to become aware of the fact that a large percentage of alcohol comes from their own homes or the homes of other parents." The survey, from the American Medical Association, involved 701 teens ages 13 to 18 and 2,283 adults, of whom 394 were parents of children ages 12 to 20. Many of the adults displayed a nonchalant attitude about teen drinking. About one-fourth of the parents polled in the study said they have allowed their teens to drink alcohol in the last six months. "The rationalization among parents is teens are going to do it anyway, let them do it under my supervision," says Pat Hines, executive director of Safe Moves, a Los Angeles nonprofit program on traffic safety education that recently developed a program for teens on drinking and driving. "Parents think they can control it. I think that's a fallacy. (Drinking) becomes almost acceptable when a parent establishes those parameters." Parents may not understand the toll of underage drinking, Hill says. Research shows underage drinking plays a large part in teen crime, violence, sexual activity and accidents. Underage drinking can lead to addiction or other substance abuse, affect school performance and damage the developing brain. "A child who begins to drink before the legal drinking age may end up having a significant problem with reasoning and memory because of their alcohol use," says Hill. "That kid is not going to do as well in school. Parents are not as aware (of the consequences) as they should be." The alcohol industry should be included in efforts to hold adults more responsible, Hill says. "The industry says, 'Talk to your kids about drinking.' But they are out there advertising to kids. They are the ones that make parents' jobs so difficult," he says. Education needs to be aimed at adults and teens to curb the use of alcohol, Hines says. Hines' new program, called Wheel Smarts, uses plays and staged "crime scene investigations" to prompt teens to think about the consequences of alcohol use. It is funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety and is offered to Los Angeles-area middle and high schools. "Parents can lay down the law, but kids are still going to do what they want," she says. "The solution truly is education aimed at the parents and the kids, because the kids are the ones who are going to get behind the wheel. But education is expensive, and it's hard work." In Buncombe County, the adults charged in the incident are awaiting trial, Moore says. He says he may allow some of the youths charged with underage drinking to perform some type of community service. "To me, one of the ways to try to address this problem is more education of teenagers." LATWP News ServicesParents often help teenagers get alcohol

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Aug 21, 2005
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