Spring is here which means not only the return of warm weather but also prom and graduation season which should be a time of joy and celebration. Unfortunately, this time of the year also means an increased risk for teens to be involved in an alcohol related incident, many of which are deadly.
According to the National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration, approximately 1,000 teens are killed each year because of alcohol while celebrating their prom or graduation. Even more alarming is the fact that many of these teens obtain their alcohol from adults including parents, older siblings, or friends’ parents. According to the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment, nearly 70% of teens who used alcohol in the last 12 months obtained it from their own home and about 60% were able to access it at a friend’s home or at a party.
Parents sometimes believe that a little alcohol is harmless for teens or that youth are going to try it anyway so they provide a place for drinking, falsely believing they are providing a safer alternative to unsupervised house parties. They may not realize that what they are doing is actually illegal. By definition, a Social Host is anyone who provides the location for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. A Social Host can be either an adult or a minor and do not necessarily have to be physically present or the actual property owner. Violating social host law is punishable by an immediate $500 fine and increases with each additional violation. Three violations of the law can earn adults a felony conviction with up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Additionally, if someone is injured or killed due to a Social Host violation, there can also be a felony conviction.
There are numerous ways to protect our youth from the dangers of underage alcohol consumption:
- One of the easiest ways is to simply talk with your teen. Take the time now to talk openly and honestly with your teen and make expectations clear that underage drinking is unacceptable and dangerous.
- Report parties where underage drinking is taking place - it could save a life. Having a simple conversation with youth about the dangers of drinking to their undeveloped brains and bodies can change the course of their decision making in the future.
April is also National Alcohol Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to initiate the conversation about underage drinking. Gateway to Prevention & Recovery staff are utilizing the month to launch a campaign that will hopefully spark some conversation within the community.
The Drug Free Communities of Pottawatomie County and Community Based Prevention Services Grant have joined forces to bring awareness to the Social Host Law. The two grants, both of which are housed by Gateway to Prevention & Recovery, have partnered with community businesses and organizations to bring back the Pink Elephant campaign.
During the month of April, a paper mache pink elephant will be hosted by a different location each week. The pink elephant serves as a visual reminder of the statewide Social Host Law and the consequences of adults providing alcohol and/or a place to drink for underage youth. In addition, there will be handouts and other information distributed via social media. Be on the lookout for the pink elephant during the month of April and if you see it make sure to snap a photo and share on social media. We hope the pink elephant serves as a great reminder that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep our youth safe!
If you have any questions or would like more information about the initiatives above, do not hesitate to contact Danielle Mason-Rains at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Rowland has worked for Gateway since August 2021 as a Community Based Coalition Coordinator. Born and raised in Shawnee, Erin graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2021 and is working towards her Master’s Degree.
Danielle Rains has worked for Gateway since 2019 and is currently the Drug Free Communities Grant Program Director. She obtained her Master of Arts in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma in 2017.