What can your community do about underage drinking?
While many teens drink, underage alcohol use is not inevitable. It will take everyone in the community to make change happen. All of us can help change attitudes about teen drinking and help replace environments that enable underage alcohol use with environments that discourage it.
After all, changing how people think isn’t easy. Drinking is legal for adults. That’s why some people think drinking is a rite of passage for youth. Many young people think drinking is a way for them to feel more grown-up. People of all ages forget that underage drinking is illegal and dangerous.
Communities can come together to encourage a new attitude about underage drinking. A community that opposes underage drinking can help change how people think and act. But it takes time. So it’s important to keep sending the message that the community does not approve of underage drinking. Together, communities can support teen decisions NOT to drink.
- Get the word out about policies to prevent underage drinking. This includes age checks for people buying alcohol, including on the Internet.
- Help people learn about the latest research on underage alcohol use. Include information about the dangers of youth alcohol use for teens and others. An informed public is key to ending underage drinking.
- Teach young people about the dangers of underage alcohol use. Support programs that help teens already involved with drinking.
Change the teen scene.
- Create friendly, alcohol-free places where teens can gather.
- Create programs, including volunteer work, where young people can grow, explore their options, succeed, and feel good about themselves without alcohol.
- Help teens realize that, like “doing drugs” or smoking, underage drinking is unhealthy and can drastically impact their lives.
- Let teens involved with underage drinking know that it’s okay to ask for and get help.
- Work to change community attitudes about underage drinking.
- Focus as much community attention on underage drinking as on tobacco and drug use.
- Work with State, Tribal, and local groups to reduce underage drinking.
- Make it easier for young people who are involved with or at risk for underage drinking to get help.
- Get the word out about underage drinking laws. The law that makes drinking under age 21 illegal is only one of them. Other laws forbid selling or giving alcohol to youth. Others make it against the law to drink and drive. Work to help ensure these laws are always enforced.