Featured Letter: A youth-led initiative to combat underage drinking

Riverhead Beverage. (Credit: Twitter)
Local students participated in Project Sticker Shock at Riverhead Beverage Oct. 27. (Credit: Riverhead CAP/Twitter)

To the editor:

On behalf of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth, or CAP, I would like to thank Riverhead Beverage and its co-owners, Rob Scott and Kevin McKillop, for partnering with youth to reduce underage drinking in our community. On Oct. 27, Riverhead youth participated in Project Sticker Shock at Riverhead Beverage, along with Police Chief David Hegermiller, Councilman John Dunleavy and other members of the Riverhead Coalition. The goal of this youth-led initiative is to educate adults who might provide alcohol to young people about the law that prohibits furnishing alcohol to minors. As part of the program, young people placed bright stickers on multi-packs of beer that warn of the serious penalties for furnishing alcohol to minors, which include fines of up to $1,000 and/or a year in jail.

As a community prevention specialist for Riverhead CAP, I work to raise awareness of youth substance use and implement strategies in our community to reduce youth substance abuse and its related problems. Underage drinking is a public health problem that puts the health and safety of youth and other members of our community at risk. Our latest survey indicates that over half of 12th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, and over half of those reported getting it from a friend or family member who is over 21.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the U.S., and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among minors. Young people aged 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

The Riverhead Coalition plans to further increase awareness of this public health issue by conducting Sticker Shock days at other retailers throughout the community. If you know youth or retailers who would like to participate, please contact me at 727-3722 or [email protected].

Kelly Miloski, Riverhead