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KEARNS — A new campaign launched in western Salt Lake County is targeting the prevention of teenage drinking through awareness and tough dialogue between parents and their kids.
Speaking Monday at a news conference in Kearns, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced a new effort to reduce underage drinking in that community. The Parents Empowered campaign will post ads throughout the area beginning next week at Harmons, the county library and other community gathering places.
Parents Empowered is a state education campaign targeting underage drinking prevention. The program gives families information about the harmful effects of alcohol on the developing teen brain, along with providing skills for combating alcohol use.
"As a father of four young kids myself, this (issue) really hits home for me," McAdams said. "All parents need to learn to talk to our kids about drinking and the dangers of it."
He noted parents should provide children with all the "tools available before they're confronted with those decisions."
Salt Lake County received a $10,000 grant from Parents Empowered for visual displays that detail the dangerous effects of underage drinking, he explained.
A committee called Evidence2Success made up of 25 Kearns residents identified underage drinking as a priority in their efforts to improve the lives of youth and families in their community, committee member Joshua Nielsen said. The group of residents is involved in the community-based initiative aimed at promoting child well-being in the Kearns community.
"We're trying to get parents to the table to just have a conversation with their kids, whether they drink or not, the harms that underage drinking causes to developing brains — and the science backs it up," he said. "Hopefully, (parents) get passionate about talking to their kids about what underage drinking does to the brain."
The data collected by the committee from Student Health and Risk Prevention showed 70 percent of Kearns youth don't talk to their parents about drinking, and 34 percent take their first “real drink” before the age of 17.
While data also showed that 26 percent of kids in Kearns don't feel underage alcohol consumption is much of a risk, some local high school students are well aware of the potential danger.
"I'm pretty sure of myself (with regards to drinking)," said Kearns High School sophomore Giselle Cesar Molina. "If I don't want to drink, I'll just say 'no' because that's how I was raised."
She noted, however, that the campaign could be helpful for people like her younger brother who may not know what to do.
"It's going to help them (realize) that it's OK to say 'no' and that drinking isn't the cool thing to do." she added.
"(This program) is adults giving us advice because (their) experience is way longer than ours," said Kearns School junior Hajer Al Hachami. "If we just have our own voice (along) with somebody right by our side to tell us (how to proceed), our mindset will be different and we'll understand what (not) to do."