Posted on January 2, 2017 by Jana Renner
Parents concerned about their teens attending large underage drinking parties will soon breathe a little easier. On December 6th, 2016, El Paso became the first city in Texas to adopt a civil Social Host Ordinance. The ordinances hold adults accountable for providing an environment where underage parties take place. They have shown to reduce the number of large underage drinking parties in communities that adopt and enforce them.
The Paso del Norte Health Foundation commissioned a status report on underage drinking in El Paso this year. What we found is that alcohol is the leading drug of choice among El Paso youth with more than 28% of 9th graders reporting drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. About 17% reported binge drinking, or having five or more drinks in a row on one occasion. Where do youth gain access to the alcohol that they drink? Overwhelmingly, in social settings such as house parties. Another recent study showed that 56% of 12th graders and 30% of 9th graders said that alcohol was at “most or all of the parties they attend”.
Parties, whether supervised or unsupervised by an adult, are high-risk settings for hazardous drinking behaviors, including binge drinking. Binge drinking is associated with alcohol-related injuries, sexual assaults, alcohol poisoning, property damage, and other drug use. These large drinking parties can also be “training grounds” where young drinkers are exposed to heavier drinkers, accelerating their use of alcohol.
Many believe that providing alcohol to teenagers at home promotes drinking alcohol responsibly and lessens the risk of drinking problems as teens get older. Evidence challenges these beliefs. Making alcohol accessible to teenagers actually increases the chance that they will continue to drink as they get older and can lead to drinking problems as adults. In addition, teens who begin drinking at a young age have a greater chance of developing an alcohol use disorder as adults. Research also suggests that adolescents are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs if their parents are permissive about alcohol use.
Protecting El Paso’s young people from the harms associated with underage drinking is the intent of this ordinance. Once implemented, this ordinance will provide law enforcement with an additional mechanism that will help prevent some of these parties and will help them hold people accountable when they do happen through fines, community service, or taking an education course.
It is exciting to announce that also in December, Anthony, New Mexico’s City Council passed a Social Host Ordinance.
The Alcohol Impact Network is a group of community members concerned with the harms of underage and binge drinking. The Network is coordinated through the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Shift+ initiative and the YMCA of El Paso. If you or members of your organization are interested in joining the Network, contact the YMCA at 915-532-9622.
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April 21, 2017
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