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Underage drinking problem highlighted

A few days before April, a young man, just 18 years old and a student at Waimea High School, was killed when he lost control of his pickup truck in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in Kekaha.

His girlfriend was seriously injured and medivaced to O‘ahu for treatment.

A press release from the county’s public information office said alcohol was probably involved in the crash that took one life and left a young baby to grow up without a father.

Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer, said the police department is currently awaiting results of the toxicology report as part of its investigation efforts.

Underage drinking is a growing problem with devastating consequences and alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous, not only to themselves, but to society as a whole, states a mayoral proclamation declaring April as Alcohol Awareness Month.

Since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month, established as a nationwide effort to provide the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism and the serious problem of alcohol abuse.

“We have got to get this problem under control,” said Theresa Koki, the county’s anti-drug coordinator. “With the recent death of a friend’s son, it hits closer and closer to home for many parents. It just reconfirms that it can, and will, happen to any one of us.”

Koki, obviously frustrated by the growing problem of underage drinking on Kaua‘i, said the fact that children decide to drink then get behind the wheel of a car are two bad choices.

“But who made the first choice to sell or give these underage children alcohol? Who is really killing our children?” Koki said.

Alcohol is the No. 1 drug of choice for America’s youth and is associated with traffic fatalities, violence, unsafe sex, suicide, educational failure and other behavioral problems, the mayoral proclamation states.

Those young people who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than those who begin at age 21, the proclamation continues, citing statistics from the U.S. Surgeon General.

Every day in America, 7,000 children under age 16 take their first drink.

“Together, We Can Stop Underage Drinking!” is the theme of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month and representatives from the prevention, treatment, enforcement and integration partner agencies joined Koki in kicking off the program with Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

Starting with the Sequenced Transition into Education in the Public Schools parent/child fair last weekend, a joint partnership will be hosting a kiosk at the Kukui Grove shopping center from 6 to 9 p.m. each Friday.

This is being done in cooperation with the county, the Hawai‘i Partnership to Prevent Underage Drinking Kaua‘i Coalition and the Hawai‘i National Guard Counterdrug Support Program, Koki said.

Additionally, Koki said the anti-drug office was notified that its application for $313,950 of the Strategic Prevention Framework – State Incentive Grant has been accepted with the funds being earmarked for the reduction and prevention of underage alcohol consumption for youth.

In a flier available from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, some of Hawai‘i’s underage drinking laws point out that it is illegal to provide alcohol to minors under age 21, host teen alcohol drinking parties at one’s home, and unsafe for minors under age 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their body.

Parents and other adults can be prosecuted for giving alcohol to minors and can be held liable if they provide alcohol to a minor who then kills or injures another person.

Adults prosecuted under the underage drinking laws can face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. They can also be sued if the minor hurts or kills someone, or damages property.

Koki, who was obviously moved when viewing a MySpace DVD of Kaua‘i’s student-athletes in their school uniforms partying with alcohol and hamming it up for cameras, said this is a good time to remind parents, coaches, teachers and other adults that they are the role models for our children.

If underage drinkers die because of alcohol, Koki said, who is really killing them?

source: Garden Island

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