From Our Team
Palcohol: the next frontier
Posted on April 6, 2015 by Jon Law
The TTB’s decision is not without controversy. Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont already have banned powdered alcohol and several other states are considering the same action. Supporters of banning the product are concerned with the potential use and misuse of Palcohol by youth. They argue that powdered alcohol is easily concealed and could be mixed with liquid alcohol, rather than water, to create a dangerous substance. David Jernigan, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explains: “we know that there is a certain set of young people who will try the latest beverage and get in a lot of trouble.”
Texas and New Mexico have not taken any action to ban Palcohol. If nothing else, the emergence of Palcohol should remind parents and youth advocates that underage drinking is deeply embedded in our culture. Many youth begin drinking before the age of 13. By age 15, about half of youth have had a drink of alcohol. While an occasional party may appear harmless, there can be serious consequences to underage drinking. It is a leading contributor to death from injuries, the main cause of death for individuals under the age of 21. Of these, about 38% of underage deaths from injuries involve motor vehicle crashes. The use of alcohol plays a significant role in risky sexual behavior, including unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity, and sex with multiple partners. Underage drinking increases a young person’s risk of physical and sexual assault. And, underage drinking increases the risk for heavy drinking later in life.
One overall strategy for preventing underage drinking is called “scaffolding.” In the construction industry, a scaffold is a temporary structure used to support workers and materials when a building is being constructed. Once the building is complete, the scaffold is removed. In the context of youth development, scaffolding refers to the supports provided by parents, neighbors, and other community members to help children and youth to behave in a more mature way until they are ready to function without the extra support. As part of the scaffold, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends the following actions for parents and caregivers to promote the best alcohol-related outcomes for their youth:
• Be aware of your youth’s whereabouts. • Know your youth’s friends. • Be knowledgeable of your youth’s activities. • Enforce the parental rules you’ve set. • Strengthen your youth’s skills in refusing alcohol.
In addition, the Surgeon General emphasizes that parents need to serve as positive role models for their children by not drinking excessively, by avoiding alcohol consumption when driving a motor vehicle or boating, and by seeking professional help for alcohol-related problems.
Palcohol or not, underage alcohol use is not inevitable. However, a successful community effort to prevent youth alcohol use cannot be led by parents alone. Parts of the scaffold must involve all individuals and organizations that can affect young people, including: local government, schools, churches, employers, neighbors, and family. The Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the YMCA of El Paso are working with other local organizations to build a community effort called Shift+. If you are interested, please call Holly Mata at 915-532-9622.
Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation http://www.alcoholfreechildren.org/info/parents Make A Difference: Talk To your Child About Alcohol: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/MakeADiff_HTML/MakeAdiff.pdf The U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/calltoaction.pdf
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