Steamboat Springs It is not a myth that when it comes to tackling our health problems, knowledge is power. The following are some national statistics from the surgeon general about underage drinking in America:
- On average, young people have about five drinks on a single occasion. This is called binge drinking.
- Of adults who started drinking before age 15, about 40 percent have signs of alcohol dependence. That rate is four times higher than that for adults who did not drink until they turned 21.
- Approximately 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have used alcohol at least once. By age 13, the number doubles. By age 15, approximately 50 percent have had at least one drink.
- By the age of 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink.
- Each year, approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; 1,000 deaths from motor vehicles, 1,600 as a result of homicides; 300 from suicide; and hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns and drownings.
We know in Routt County, specifically Steamboat Springs, that our 2006 baseline data was alarming within the underage drinking population.
- 54 percent of Steamboat Springs High School students reported using alcohol once or more within the past month.
- 40 percent of SSHS students reported getting drunk once or more within the past 14 days.
- 42 percent of SSHS students reported traveling with a driver who had been drinking.
- 74 percent of SSHS students reported attending one or more parties within the past year where kids their age were drinking.
As a community, we are striving to implement a primary strategy for deterring underage drinking. It is a social host liability ordinance. What's that, you ask?
The ordinance refers to laws that hold non-commercial individuals responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease or otherwise control. Social host ordinances really target people who are providing the venue where underage drinking takes place.
It's no secret where these places are in our rural community. Whether it's a bonfire at someone's ranch in a secluded, wooded area, a high school senior's home while parents are away, a college dorm room, or a rented condominium, our youths have access to alcohol and are abusing it. These gatherings are particularly problematic because of the number of drinkers involved and the large quantity of alcohol consumed. All-too-common results from these gatherings are community disturbances, sexual assaults, alcohol poisonings, traffic accidents, property damage, suicide and violent activities.
Routt County is hoping to be the first county in Colorado to implement and enforce such a law. I encourage you to have community discussions with your region to bring this ordinance to your town. I believe that everyone in the community should deliver the message that it is not OK for underage drinking to happen. All communities have within themselves the ability to work together and create an environment for their younger population to grow up and feel good about themselves without drinking. There are many different social host ordinance models available. Choose one that meets the needs of your community and its underage drinking epidemic. Make a difference.
Steamboat Springs Mental Health