By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Students from the Madison County Youth in Action gave a roll-call briefing for the Richmond Police Department on Thursday and served trays of sweets to officers in appreciation for the department’s efforts to fight underage drinking, said Jennifer Webb, the group’s coordinator.
“It means a lot to us youth that you continue to do all you can to prevent underage drinking,” said Tia Raucher, a 16-year-old from Madison Southern High School.
The group also spoke about their upcoming media campaign they will launch the last week of October during Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide alcohol and drug prevention campaign.
“We will not only work with law enforcement to promote their efforts in enforcing underage drinking laws, but we also will target social outlets of underage drinking, parents and educators, and retail establishments,” Webb said.
Some studies show that teenage tobacco use is going down because of prevention efforts over the years, she said. “Our hopes are that with our prevention efforts, we’ll also start seeing a decrease.
The group also gave a presentation on Alcopops, flavored beverages that contain liquor, are usually high in alcohol content (approximately 4.8 servings of alcohol per can), and mask the taste of alcohol.
The Youth in Action team composed a letter addressed to local legislatures urging them to have Alcopops reclassified as hard liquor and not malt beverages.
Changing the beverages’ classification would prevent them from being sold in convenience and grocery stores, where they are often confused with juice, soda or energy drinks because of their packaging, the letter said.
Webb recalled a story about one of the group’s sister organizations that was giving an Alcopop presentation to educators in Western Kentucky.
During the presentation, one of the teachers “looked like he was having a stroke,” left the room, came back and announced that Alcopops were mistakenly being sold in the school’s vending machine, she said.
“It’s commonplace for teachers to see kids bring energy drinks to schools and not realize that they may have an Alcopop because the cans are so similar,” Webb said.
In fact, she picked one up at a convenience store and only realized her mistake when the clerk asked, “Getting an early start this morning, huh?”
According to RPD Chief Larry Brock, a few cases of youth drinking Alcopops have been reported in the past and that many officers are aware of the beverages from trainings and seminars, “but some are just learning of the issue,” he said.
The group has been conducting their Alcopop presentation to various civic organizations and will be giving the same presentation to Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, per their request, Webb said.
Youth In Action's mission is to reduce the access of alcohol to youth under 21 years of age by targeting social and retail availability of alcohol and by supporting the enforcement of underage drinking laws, she said.
Madison County’s award-winning team was formed in 2006 and participates in a variety of projects. The team is a two-time recipient of the Kentucky Youth in Action Team of the Year award and was recently presented the Heart of MADD award.
Madison County Youth in Action is supported by an Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws grant that is administered through the Kentucky State Police. The team also receives funding through Madison County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.