Health Department Encourages Youth to Question Alcohol Industry Messages

For Immediate Release: May 30, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON, VT – The Vermont Department of Health, along with the 23 local Strategic Prevention Framework grantees and other community partners around the state, are working together to reduce underage drinking with the new Question the Message prevention campaign.

Underage drinking has steadily declined during the past decade, but remains a serious problem in Vermont. Among 8th to 12th graders, 39 percent reported that they consumed at least one alcoholic beverage in the last 30 days, compared to 53 percent in 1995.

“It’s critical that we reach out to youth and their parents as early as possible about the dangers of underage drinking,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Research shows that those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who start after 21.”

The goal of Question the Message is to educate youth about the ways alcohol use is portrayed in television, film and advertising, so they can be better informed, less vulnerable to influence, and able to make smarter decisions about alcohol use. The campaign builds upon similar campaigns implemented locally to educate teens about smoking in the movies, as well as national campaigns that target the tobacco industry.

“The transition from “tween” to teen can be stressful and raises expectations about how to act and fit in with peers,” says Deputy Commissioner for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs Barbara Cimaglio. “This campaign helps arm youth with tools to question the alcohol industry messages and products that contribute to the assumptions that alcohol use is normal for this age group.”

Question the Message includes four new radio spots that ask listeners to play along with the quiz show Most Bogus!, where players have to guess which fact is the most bogus. These educational radio spots drive youth to the web site www.QuestiontheMessage.com, where users can send hidden messages to friends, play their own game of Most Bogus!, check out the real facts about the alcohol industry, find a local event on the calendar, download mobile phone ring tones and wallpaper, and link to activities. Additional advertising will be placed online via banner ads, and in select movie theaters around the state.

In addition to the web site, community partners and radio stations will be holding local events where Question the Message educational items and contest game cards will be handed out to youth age 13 to 17. Each scratch-off game card includes a unique code that is entered on the web site, where one in 10 cardholders will win a prize.

The campaign is part of a comprehensive effort that was started by Gov. Jim Douglas and implemented by the Vermont Department of Health known as the DETER (Drug Education, Treatment, Enforcement, and Rehabilitation). DETER is a comprehensive initiative that provides a sustainable strategy to address substance abuse problems statewide, with an emphasis on preventing drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

For more information on the alcohol abuse prevention efforts, go to http://healthvermont.gov.

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