By Erica Bryant and GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press
Young people in North Carolina — particularly middle-school students — are drinking and parents need the confidence and resources to stop it, Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials said Wednesday while unveiling a website with techniques to address the problem.
The governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman Jim Gardner launched an effort stemming from a task force created last spring on the topic.
The site — www.talkitoutnc.org — chronicles the negative results of youth drinking in North Carolina and gives tips to parents on how to speak plainly to kids about why underage drinking is dangerous to them immediately and as an adult.
An ABC Commission initiative surveying North Carolina students and parents in July found that more than one-third of eighth-graders had consumed alcohol at least once. More than 60 percent of parents don’t feel fully prepared to properly address the issue with their children, according to a commission news release.
Harrisburg Mayor Steve Sciascia remembers Sept. 29, 2011 when he lost his first born son Joseph in an underage-drinking accident.
“It’s a pain that doesn’t go away it stays with you,” Sciascia said.
Joseph and his best friend Dillon, both 19, left a party near UNC- Charlotte where alcohol was served to minors.
Dillon ran off Back Creek Church Road and hit a tree. Joseph was killed instantly and his friend is bedridden for life.
“If I can save one life as a result of what I’m doing or my position as mayor to do that,” Sciascia said. “It’s worth it to me.”
Now Sciascia has channeled his family’s tragedy.
He is one of the faces in the campaign launched by McCrory.
“A lot of times we only talk to our kids when they are complaining about something,” Sciascia said. “Talk to them when they are not complaining. Stay a part of their lives and start early on you can’t wait until they are 19 or 20 to have those communications.
Triggering serious conversations to change the dangerous trend is important.
“On there (website) will be a lot of information for parents on how to engage your children,” he said. “if they are drinking, has a problem so it’s a lot of useful in one place before.”
It is illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol.
The figures reported “mean one thing — that as parents, we can’t wait until high school to have real talks with our children. We have to start much earlier so they’ll be fully prepared for what they’re going to face,” Forest said in a news release. He and his wife — the parents of four children — are designated ambassadors of the Talk It Out campaign.
The Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center estimates that underage drinking cost state residents $1.5 billion in 2010 and contributed to tens of thousands of crimes and dozens of homicides the year before.
Two television ads will start airing on the topic Wednesday, along with social media and public events across the state.
The website, announced at Raleigh’s Daniels Middle School, also includes a video with people describing their stories associated with underage drinking.
The underage drinking effort has been a key initiative for Gardner, a former congressman and North Carolina’s only Republican lieutenant governor elected in the 20th century, serving from 1989 to 1993. McCrory picked him last year for the three-member ABC commission. The state ABC regulates alcohol sales at more than 18,000 retail outlets statewide.