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Janell Cole, Published March 10 2009

Campaign against underage drinking launches

BISMARCK – With the high school prom and graduation season approaching, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem reminded the state’s parents Monday that it’s illegal to provide alcohol or host drinking parties for their underage kids.

Stenehjem and state Human Services Director Carol Olson said a persistent attitude among parents, young people and others in North Dakota that teen drinking is OK is evident in new survey results and has led them to launch a new campaign to lower the incidence of underage drinking in the state.

“The results of the survey were shocking,” Stenehjem said.

By middle school, one-third of North Dakota students have already used alcohol, and 10 percent had their first real drink of alcohol (other than a few sips), before they were 11 years old, according to the most recent state risk behavior survey.

Also, a separate community survey of attitudes in the state showed that 70 percent of North Dakotans believe it’s not difficult or only slightly difficult for youth to get their parents to give them alcohol.

About a third of the survey takers said that in their community, teen drinking is considered acceptable behavior. And more people approve of teen drinking than they do of teen smoking.

The survey showed that while only 10.4 percent of respondents felt it’s all right for parents to offer youth some alcohol in their own home, more than one-third disagreed with the statement that there should be a law prohibiting giving alcohol to your own children.

As part of the new campaign, the state has sent brochures to all parents about underage drinking, including the criminal laws and the risk of civil liability if they furnish alcohol.

The new education efforts aimed at young people will reach down into grade schools.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net