Holiday campaign warns Utahns to keep alcohol away from children
Ads asking parents to keep even closer eye on kids will be in liquor stores into the new year.
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Utahns who buy wine, beer and spirits for the holidays can expect to get an extra holiday greeting — signs and posters reminding them to keep kids alcohol-free.

The underage-drinking messages began appearing Thursday and will soon be seen in all 42 state liquor stores and three dozen package agencies throughout the state. They will remain into the new year.

The messages hang from alcohol bottles, appear on checkout counters and are posted on walls. They all include brief sentences, including "Parents. World's best alcohol surveillance system," to remind adults to set clear rules and expectations about not using alcohol.

While the message is important all year long, the holidays are a particular problem for underage drinking because alcohol is more readily available in homes as families and friends get together to celebrate, officials said.

State liquor sales in November 2012 were $24.3 million, jumping 33 percent in December to $32.4 million, according to statistics from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (UDABC).

Studies show that underage drinking affects brain development, increases the chance of addiction, leads to poor grades and increased sexual activity and is the leading cause of death among teens.

"I don't think parents would give kids alcohol if they realized the risks," Art Brown, a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said during a media event unveiling the signs.

But the problem has a solution. Research has also shown that parental disapproval is the No. 1 reason youths choose not to drink.

"Parents need to bond with their teenagers, set clear rules and monitor behavior," Brown said.

The new campaign was jointly funded with a $10,000 grant from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association and matching funds from Parents Empowered, the state's alcohol education program, according to Doug MĀ­urakami, UDABC's alcohol education director.

"It's money well-spent," Murakami said. "Alcohol and youth is not a good mix. We know nothing good that comes out of that."

kathys@sltrib.com