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By Jed BoalSALT LAKE COUNTY -- People across Salt Lake County will start to see new messages aimed at underage drinking, delivered right on their streets. Garbage trucks roll through all of our residential neighborhoods once a week. So, the mayors of Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City decided to "go to the curb" to call attention to the dangers of underage drinking.
Alcohol kills more young people than all other illegal drugs combined. -Parents Empowered
When the garbage trucks make the rounds in your Salt Lake neighborhood, you'll see messages wrapped around the trucks: "Underage drinking. It's garbage," and "The dreams of underage drinkers often wind up in here."
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said it's a community concern. He said, "Today's underage drinkers are today's and tomorrow's DUIs."
45% of teens who drink under the age of 15 will become alcoholics.
–Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon
Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon Tuesday morning dispatched three large fleets of mobile billboards on state and private sanitation trucks. The public works departments of those municipalities, along with ACE Disposal, sent out 75 wrapped trucks. They will travel a combined three million miles and visit nearly 18 million homes each year.
Corroon said, "Forty-five percent of teens who drink under the age of 15 will become alcoholics, whereas just 7 percent of those who wait until the legal age of 21 become alcoholics. So, it does make a difference."
A child who gets through the age of 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so.
–Joseph Califano, The Natl. Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia Univ.
The lead organization, ParentsEmpowered.org, plans to spread the message on garbage trucks statewide in the future. While the messages are clever, the aim is simple: keep Utah's young population alcohol-free. Parents Empowered started its work three years ago, and surveys show the number of children drinkers has dropped in Utah.
Sam Granato, chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, said, "In the past two years, Utah has 11,000 fewer children who have reported ever using or trying alcohol."
Campaign leaders say education is the key to solving the problem. Studies show parental disapproval of underage drinking is the No.1 reason teens will choose not to drink.