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Shelley Osterloh ReportingA recent study shows more Utah kids are drinking alcohol, and they’re starting at a younger age. And the research shows underage drinking can have some harmful consequences for kids.
It is an alarming trend. The research shows 41 percent of all youth in Utah between the ages of 12 and 18 have consumed alcohol. Nearly one in six drink alcohol on a weekly basis. So Utah's Alcohol Policy Coalition has developed a five-point plan to reduce underage drinking.
George Van Komen, MD, Chairman Alcohol Policy Coalition: "They permanently injure their brains in the areas that are involved in memory and learning."
In a study conducted by Insight Research for the Alcohol Coalition, 80 percent of youth said it’s easy to obtain alcohol in Utah. So the coalition wants to make it tougher and more expensive to buy. The coalition also wants to increase the alcohol excise tax by one dime for each 6-pack of beer sold in Utah.
George Van Komen, MD, Chairman Alcohol Policy Coalition: "The financial impact on the alcohol consumer will be minimal even for heavy drinkers, while the benefits to our youth will be enormous."
Dr. Van Komen estimates the tax will raise three million dollars annually to be used for health education programs. Coalition members say an increased beer tax will also deter underage use and reduce traffic crash fatalities.
George Van Komen, MD, Chairman Alcohol Policy Coalition: "Seventeen percent of all of Utah's youth, or 41 % of underage drinkers, say they have driven a car in the last month after drinking alcohol. One in five Utah teens say they have been a passenger in a car where they knew the driver was drunk. These are alarming statistics."
Other proposals include plans to decrease availability and improve enforcement and penalties for teens that try to buy alcohol. They suggest decreasing the amount of alcohol advertising to which young people are exposed, especially beer commercials that target teens.
They also seek parental and public help. Since research shows a third of Utah kids who consumed alcohol did so with parental approval, the coalition says parents need to become educated about the harm and injury alcohol use causes youth.
One positive note, the coalition's study shows that college kids in Utah are drinking less. They call it a significant improvement since the last study six years ago.