Almost twice as many middle and high school students compared to parents think that underage drinking is a serious issue, according to a survey commissioned by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
"North Carolina has an underage drinking problem," ABC Chairman Jim Gardner said on Wednesday. "What’s worse: Our state’s children think underage drinking is a much bigger problem than their parents do."
The ABC, which controls the state’s alcohol sales, is seeking to curb alcohol consumption among people under 21. At Daniels Middle School in Raleigh, Gardner rolled out what he says will be a years-long campaign to encourage parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with alcohol abuse, and released the findings of a recent survey of 300 middle and high school students and 500 parents of middle and high school students.
- 37 percent of parents said underage drinking is a big problem, while 58 percent of students said it’s a big problem.
- Young people are consuming alcohol for the first time on average just before their 14th birthday.
- Among 7th graders, 5.7 percent reported drinking five or more drinks in one sitting during the previous 30 days.
- Among 8th graders, 12.4 percent reported drinking five or more drinks in one sitting during the previous 30 days.
The ABC’s new campaign, called Talk It Out, focuses on parents and middle school-aged students, Gardner said. It’s similar to an educational campaign the state of Utah launched in 2006, called Parents Empowered, which is funded with money allocated by the Utah legislature.
In two TV ads scheduled to start airing this week, primarily during ACC basketball games and on Time Warner Cable, parents interact with their children, apparently after an alcohol-related incident. In a separate video, four North Carolina residents tell personal stories of tragic events related to alcohol abuse.
One of them, Steve Sciascia, a banker and the mayor of the town of Harrisburg outside of Charlotte, says his son Joseph was killed in a wreck in 2011. A friend of Joseph’s had been drinking and was driving, and Joseph was a passenger.
“His birthday was Christmas Eve. The holidays are probably the worst for us,” Sciacia said in an interview. “Thanksgiving is bad. There's this seat missing.”
The ABC, which is funded by surcharges on the sales of alcohol, will spend roughly $2.5 million per year on the campaign, Gardner said.
The commission will pay for the campaign with money left from its operating fund, said Luther Snyder, Executive Director of the North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking. The commission will increase the alcohol surcharge to pay for the campaign in future years, and details on the increase will be made public at the commission's Dec. 10 meeting, Snyder said.