SAMHSA Offers Alcohol Prevention Strategies to Youth
Think children age 9 to 13 are too young for anti-alcohol messages?
By eighth grade, many students are already drinkers. In SAMHSA's
2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, for example, 6.5 percent
of 13-year-olds reported that they had downed at least one drink
in the last month. And the average age of kids taking their first
drink is dropping, the survey reports. Underage drinking doesn't
just harm children's physical and psychological development,
either. It also sets them up for problems later in life. In fact,
the survey warns that kids who first try alcohol at age 14 or younger
are 4 1/2 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence
problems later in life than those who have their first drink at
18 or older.
|Young people participate in
"Too Smart to Start" activities in Cincinnati, OH,
To stop such problems before they begin, SAMHSA's Center
for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) recently launched a national
public education initiative called "Too Smart to Start."
Part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National
Youth Media Campaign to Change Children's Health Behaviors,
the initiative provides research-based materials and strategies
that professionals and volunteers at the local level can use to
educate their communities' children—and parents or other
caregivers—about the dangers of underage drinking.
|Event volunteers include (l to r) John Overlook, Mark Clegg (holding baby Elizebeth), and Shondolyn Lagdameyo, a staff member at the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.
To help get the message out, several national organizations—the
American Medical Association, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of
America, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, National Association of
State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors/National Prevention Network,
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, National Family
Partnership, and PRIDE Youth Programs—will help publicize
the initiative and disseminate its materials to their community-based
affiliates. Ten community-based projects around the country will
also be involved as pilot programs.
Together they will work to meet the initiative's specific
objectives of increasing the number of conversations children and
adults have about the harms of underage drinking, increasing the
percentage of 9- to 13-year-olds and their parents or other caregivers
who view underage drinking as a problem, and increasing the general
public's disapproval of underage drinking. An evaluation will
assess the initiative's impact in the 10 pilot sites.
"It's a whole lot easier to keep children from starting
to use alcohol in the first place than it is to intervene once they've
become drinkers," said CSAP Director Beverly Watts Davis.
"With this initiative, every member of the community can help
us keep youngsters from taking that first sip of alcohol."
Back to Top
A Multifaceted Approach
Developed with input from 9- to 13-year-olds and their parents
and other caregivers, "Too Smart to Start" puts the
issues important to young people at its center. The initiative's
philosophy is to allow young people themselves to offer advice and
help create prevention efforts rather than simply participate in
them. As young people introduce their parents and other caregivers
to today's youth culture, adults' roles shift from directing
activities to acting as partners and supervisors. While kids learn
the importance of not drinking, adults learn how to listen and modify
their own behavior.
The initiative provides everything that children, parents, and
other community members need to start their own ongoing campaigns
against underage drinking.
One key resource is the Too Smart to Start: Community Action
Kit, which features an implementation guide offering information
about underage drinking and step-by-step advice on starting local
projects. The guide explains how to research target audiences, assess
local needs, identify partners, create an action plan, and raise public awareness through presentations,
special events, educational programs, and the mass media. It also
features such resources as a needs assessment form, talking points
for presentations, a quiz, press release guidelines, and a sample
letter to the editor. In addition to the guide, the kit includes
a brochure, a poster, a "SmartSTATS" data book, booklets
for parents, PowerPoint presentations, and sample public service
announcements for print, radio, and television.
initiative offers plenty of other materials to support local efforts.
Additional "Too Smart to Start" materials include posters for both
children and adults, ready-to-use public service announcements,
booklets that help parents and other caregivers talk to children
about drinking, and a board game designed to dispel common myths
about alcohol use and encourage open discussion about drinking.
Communities don't have to use every single resource, however.
Flexibility is one of the initiative's hallmarks, say its
developers, noting that communities can customize their own initiatives
to reflect local needs and resources. The "Too Smart to Start"
brochure even outlines options for more or less intensive campaigns.
Communities with limited resources, for instance, could make the
core tactic called "Mosaic Messages"—public service
announcements featuring snippets of interviews with local children
and adults—the centerpiece of their efforts. Communities with
greater resources could also create documentaries allowing children
to give their own perspectives on underage alcohol use.
All "Too Smart to Start"
materials are available free of charge; the initiative also
offers communities free technical assistance on a wide range of
topics. To order materials or arrange technical assistance, write
to SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345; or call 1 (800) 729-6686
(English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD); or go to www.ncadi.samhsa.gov.
Back to Top