Utah leads out on underage drinking prevention in national average
"The more normalized alcohol is, the more integrated it is into the life around the young people, the more likely they will be to drink," he said. "Utah certainly gets a lot of points for not normalizing alcohol."
Though teenage drinking rates are lower in Utah, there are pockets of the state where they hover around the national average.
Park City in Summit County is one of those places. Underage consumption in the county more than doubles state averages for regular alcohol use and binge drinking.
Kathy Day, a prevention coordinator with Valley Behavioral Health in Park City, attributed that to the area's diverse culture and residents whose attitudes about alcohol might differ from the state as a whole.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association recently teamed up with ParentsEmpowered, Utah's underage drinking prevention initiative, to educate parents and youth about the dangers of drinking before age 21.
"Teens that drink are drinking to get drunk. They're not drinking to have a cocktail after work. They're not drinking a glass of wine with dinner. If they have the opportunity to get their hand on alcohol, they're drinking, and they're drinking a lot of it," said Park City police Chief Wade Carpenter.
More than a quarter of Utah children who drank alcohol in the past year say they got it at home with their parents' permission, according to the 2013 student health and risk study. And among those who drank liquor in their own houses, 40.5 percent say they did it with the approval of parents.
"Stopping underage drinking is an adult problem. It's not a kid problem," said Art Brown, a ParentsEmpowered board member and former longtime president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Parental attitudes toward drinking influence the attitude and behavior of their children, according to the health survey of students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades in 39 school districts and 14 charter schools across Utah. The state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health oversees the survey.
Parental approval of moderate drinking, even under supervision, substantially increases the risk of the young person using alcohol, according to the survey. In families where parents involve children in their drinking, such as asking a child to get them a beer, it is more likely that their kids will drink before age 21.
The report showed that of children who thought their parents would find underage drinking "very wrong," only 4.5 percent had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. It jumped to 29 percent among children who say their parents see it as "wrong." For those whose parents find it a "little bit wrong" or "not wrong at all," the figure went to 44 percent.
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