Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Importance of Talking to Your Kids about Alcohol Use

Drinking alcohol undoubtedly is a part of American culture, as are conversations between parents and children about its risks and potential benefits. However, information about alcohol can seem contradictory. Alcohol affects people differently at different stages of life—small amounts may have health benefits for certain adults, but for children and adolescents, alcohol can interfere with normal brain development. Alcohol’s differing effects and parents’ changing role in their children’s lives as they mature and seek greater independence can make talking about alcohol a challenge. Parents may have trouble setting concrete family policies for alcohol use. And they may find it difficult to communicate with children and adolescents about alcohol-related issues.

Adolescent alcohol use remains a pervasive problem. The percentage of teenagers who drink alcohol is slowly declining; however, numbers are still quite high. Forty percent of adolescents report drinking by 8th grade, and 55 percent report being drunk at least once by 12th grade (Johnston et al., 2009).

Adolescents do listen to their parents when it comes to issues such as drinking and smoking, particularly if the messages are conveyed consistently and with authority (Jackson, 2002). Research suggests that only 19 percent of teens feel that parents should have a say in the music they listen to, and 26 percent believe their parents should influence what clothing they wear. However, the majority—around 80 percent—feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol. Those who do not think that parents have authority over these issues are four times more likely than other teens to drink alcohol and three times more likely to have plans to drink if they have not already started (Jackson, 2002).

Parents influence whether and when adolescents begin drinking as well as how their children drink. Family policies about adolescent drinking in the home and the way parents themselves drink are important. For instance, if you choose to drink, always model responsible alcohol consumption. But what else can parents do to help minimize the likelihood that their adolescent will choose to drink and that such drinking, if it does occur, will become problematic? Studies (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007) have shown that it is important to:
•Talk early and often, in developmentally appropriate ways, with children and teens about your concerns—and theirs—regarding alcohol. Adolescents who know their parents’ opinions about youth drinking are more likely to fall in line with their expectations.
•Establish policies early on, and be consistent in setting expectations and enforcing rules. Adolescents do feel that parents should have a say in decisions about drinking, and they maintain this deference to parental authority as long as they perceive the message to be legitimate; consistency is central to legitimacy.
•Work with other parents to monitor where kids are gathering and what they are doing. Being involved in the lives of adolescents is key to keeping them safe.
•Work in and with the community to promote dialogue about underage drinking and the creation and implementation of action steps to address it.
•Be aware of your State’s laws about providing alcohol to your own children.
•Never provide alcohol to someone else’s child.

Web Resources to help you talk with your kids about alcohol:, Great Parent Talk Kit,,

Parents, family, and friends of teens please make sure to check out these sites or contact the SAFE Coalition for more information on issues that teens are facing today! Van Buren County SAFE Coalition: 319-293-6412, or check us out at and on Face Book.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Van Buren Students hold Kick Butts Day Activities

On Wednesday, March 23rd the Van Buren JEL/YLC members held a number of activities that encouraged smokers to kick the deadly habit of tobacco use. This is a day for smokers nationwide to unite and quit smoking. The youth encourage smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day.

No Smoking Signs- Four Van Buren JEL members visited all of the businesses in Keosauqua to ensure they had the adequate signage to be in compliance with the Iowa Smoke Free Air Act. If a business did not have a sign they posted one for them at their request. They handed out nine signs to businesses in need.

Red Ribbons, Poster and Announcements- The Harmony JEL members hung red ribbons on their school campus to make students aware of Kick Butts Day, they also hung posters in the school with tobacco facts and information for quitting smoking. An announcement was read the morning of the event so all students knew the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of quitting.

Doorknob Facts- Harmony JEL members designed doorknob facts that they distributed around Bonaparte and Farmington. The messages provided a fact about the dangers of tobacco use, information for quitting and a pencil with Quitline Iowa information. The students distributed 100 doorknob facts between the two towns, you may have seen one on your door knob!
Cigarette Butt Cleanup- Both school districts held cigarette butt clean-up projects on their (tobacco-free) campuses. This is the 4th year for this project at Van Buren and each year they have found fewer cigarette butts on the grounds. This is in part due to the great work of the janitorial staff to post Tobacco-Free Campus signs throughout the grounds. There were very few cigarettes found on the Harmony school grounds as well. Students in both districts will be presenting their findings to the school board members in April.

Buttons, Posters, Games and Announcements- The Middle School JEL members spent the morning hanging up posters around the school and making JEL buttons to hand out to all students in the school. Two of the JEL members read a morning announcement about the day, reminded students to make JEL buttons again at lunch and complete the tobacco games to win prizes! Almost all students in the middle school had buttons by the end of the day reminding them of the importance to be tobacco-free.

Videos, Every 72 Seconds, Hats and Text Message Chains- The Van Buren High School JEL members produced videos to share with their school on Kick Butts day via the channel 1 TV system. All students in the school received a message in the morning about the dangers of tobacco use and Kick Butts Day. Throughout the day 38 students were asked to wear “72” buttons. These buttons represent the 38 people who will die during one class period. Someone dies every 72 seconds from tobacco related causes. During 8th hour these students were pulled from class and a video was shown to detail the event for the entire school. This event had a significant impact on students because they could visually see how tobacco can affect lives. All students in the school were able to participate in a hat day to “put a cap on tobacco” they were allowed to wear hats to school on Wednesday. Prizes were given for the most creative hat. The JEL members were responsible for a text message chain via their cell phones that went out during the day, JEL members sent this to their friends and asked them to pass it along!

All of these events reminded students, staff and community members the dangers of tobacco use and encouraged them to use Kick Butts Day as a day they choose to quit using tobacco. For more information about the JEL/YLC program or their initiatives check them out on the web or you may contact us at 319-293-6412.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Many youth ages 12 to 14 currently get alcohol from family or home!

Did you know an estimated 709,000 youth age 12 to 14 currently drink alcohol in the U.S. – many get alcohol from family or home? More than 100,000 get it from a parent or guardian

A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that 5.9 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 14 drank alcohol in the past month and that the vast majority of them (93.4 percent) received their alcohol for free the last time they drank. About 317,000 (44.8 percent) 12 to 14 year olds who drank in the past month received their alcohol for free from their family or at home. This includes 15.7 percent (or an estimated 111,000) who were provided alcohol for free by their parents or guardians.

"People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems. Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

SAMHSA Data Spotlight: Young Alcohol Users Often Get Alcohol from Family or Home is based on the combined data from SAMHSA’s 2006 to 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and involves responses from more than 44,000 respondents ages 12 to 14. NSDUH is a primary source of information on national use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the United States. The survey is part of the agency’s strategic initiative on behavioral health data, quality and outcomes. A copy of the report is accessible at:

For the latest information about the public health risks of alcohol misuse one can go to This site provides updated information about the risks, such as drunk driving, as well as new and effective prevention strategies and activities. Another SAMHSA Web site ( provides comprehensive information about SAMHSA’s substance abuse prevention research, support and public outreach activities. SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

For more information please contact the SAFE Coalition at , by phone at 319-293-6412 or online at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Smokers Urged to Quit during Kick Butts Day

Van Buren YLC/JEL Encourages Smokers to Kick the Deadly Habit

On Wednesday, March 23rd Van Buren JEL/YLC members will be encouraging smokers to kick the deadly habit in a variety of ways. This is a day for smokers nationwide to unite and kick the deadly habit of smoking. The youth encourage smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day.

Today more Americans than ever understand the dangers associated with tobacco use and a record 46 million adults have kicked the habit and are now former smokers. Still, one and four adults are current smokers, and lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death. This year in Iowa more than 1,790 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 1,700 will die from the disease.

Smoking remains the most preventable cause of death in the U.S., but there are resources available to help people quit. Quitline Iowa utilizes science-based resources that double a caller’s chances of quitting for good, including trained tobacco cessation specialists available 24 hours a day. If you’re serious about quitting or helping someone else quit, call 1.800.QUIT NOW (1.800.784.8669) and ask for help.

The Van Buren JEL/YLC youth will be hosting a variety of KBD events in both their school and the community. The youth will be picking up cigarette butts, providing no smoking signs to businesses in need, sharing information about Quitline Iowa and reminding their peers of the dangers of tobacco use and why they should never start using. Be watching for these youth with their messages throughout the week next week! For more information about the JEL/YLC program or their initiatives check them out on the web or you may contact us at 319-293-6412.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ID Scanners to be Used in Local Businesses

Dave Mertens – Tillie’s Tap, Zach Keller – Circle B,
Melinda McCracken – Lindy’s Bar & Grill,
and Holly Boyd – First Street Grille.
Not pictured – T&C Tavern.

In an effort to help local businesses in preventing sales of alcohol to minors, the Van Buren SAFE Coalition recently purchased ID scanners and placed them in five Van Buren County retail establishments. The scanners are portable devices that read the data on driver’s licenses or state ID cards and notify the clerk of the age and date of birth of the person making the purchase. It also verifies whether an ID card is valid or expired, indicating that it may possibly be a fake ID. In addition, the businesses were provided with signs to post that the scanners are in use, possibly deterring a minor or person with a fake ID from even attempting to make a purchase. The businesses currently have their employees trained in the SAFE Coalition’s Merchant Alcohol Training program where they are taught the features of Iowa and Missouri ID cards as well as tips to spot a fake ID. The ID scanners will help them when checking out of state licenses because they are designed to read the ID’s of all other states with only one exception. By providing businesses with resources that can assist them in preventing sales to minors the SAFE Coalition is working with the retailers to address the problem of youth purchasing alcohol. The businesses that received the ID scanners are Tillie’s Tap, T&C Tavern, Lindy’s Bar & Grill, First Street Grille and Circle B. The SAFE Coalition will have additional scanners to distribute later this year. Any businesses interested should contact Tonja Jirak at 319-288-0912.