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Teens speak out about underage drinking

Forum to promote education in Auburn
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An upcoming forum on drinking has some Auburn teens sharing their opinions about underage alcohol abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States 90 percent of alcohol consumed by youth under 21 is in the form of binge drinking. A 2010 Monitoring the Future study states that less than half of the 15,127 12th-graders surveyed said they thought there was a “great risk” in having five or more drinks in a row once or twice each weekend. The Coalition for Placer Youth is hosting a teenage drinking public forum March 15 in Auburn at Placer High School to educate parents and youth about the dangers of underage drinking. Placer High senior Sawyer Carson, 18, said he doesn’t think the forum will stop teenage drinking in the local area. “It’s not really going to slow anyone down from doing it, because if they really want to get around it, they will,” Carson said. “But it might educate them to know it’s a danger to drink as much as they think they can.” Although Carson and the three other teens the Journal interviewed were not asked if they have tried alcohol, they all acknowledged they know other teens who have or do drink. “I have a few friends who drink, but it’s not heavy,” said Senior Hannah Peterson, 18. “I think there definitely is a problem with underage drinking in the community. It’s definitely a problem under the radar.” Peterson said she knows some teens whose parents have given them alcohol to try at home, and that it’s pretty accessible to youth. Sophomore Jalen Lewis, 15, an ambassador for the Placer County Youth Commission, said he doesn’t think drinking is pushed on teens. “I don’t really think it’s a (peer) pressure,” Lewis said. “I think it’s more of an activity. I think it’s more of a social thing.” Lewis said he thinks alcohol has become a norm in today’s society. “It’s almost everywhere,” Lewis said. “You can’t avoid it anymore. You see your parents doing it.” Sophomore Brandon Barry, 15, a Placer County youth commissioner, said he doesn’t think parents can relate to the teenage culture that sometimes involves exposure to things like alcohol. “I don’t think they understand at all that is has gotten worse in the high school environment,” Barry said. Barry said while alcohol may be a norm, he hopes its popularity will fizzle. “I think that alcohol is so common to see you almost don’t think it’s bad,” he said. “But I hope soon it’s like cigarettes where it had its moment in the sun and then it’s trashed. (I hope) its reputation will change.” Lewis said he doesn’t expect a huge difference in teenage drinking as a result of the forum, but that it’s still an important step for the community. “It’s hard to actually have a change by starting a forum, but it’s a start to recognize we are trying to do something about it,” he said. Barry said the Placer County Youth Commission is hoping to see an ordinance passed in Placer County that fines and could even jail adults who serve alcohol to teens in their homes. A similar effort began Jan. 1 when Assembly Bill 2486 became law. The law states that civil suits can be filed against adults who knowingly serve alcohol to teens who are then harmed or harm others due to that alcohol. Lewis and Barry plan to attend the forum. Peterson and Carson said they probably wouldn’t go. “I just think I know enough with drinking and everything that I don’t really feel the need to go,” Carson said. Lewis said he hopes the forum will act as a way to get information out about teenage drinking and the specific experiences local youth are having. “There is always the case of the person who is being pressured,” he said. “And a lot of the time there isn’t communication between Placer County officials and parents.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com