Billboards tell parents, 'Love them enough to say no'

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
Enfield High School juniors and youth members of Enfield Together (l-r) Jacob Nitch, Marc Falcone, Kareem Hammad and Joseph Frost help raise awareness about the importance of not providing teens with alcohol during the holiday season - and year-round. Photo contributed. - Contributed Photo

As college students came home for break and middle school and high school students had 12 days off from school, the Enfield Together Coalition (ETC) set out on the objective to curb teen drinking during a period they designate as a "high youth drinking time."

A recent survey of Enfield youth indicated that 66 percent of respondents said they obtained access to alcohol through friends and family, prompting the coalition to place billboards prominently around town. The billboards read, "Love them enough to say no," and discouraged parents, friends, family and other adults from purchasing alcohol for teens.

“We know that our liquor retailers are doing right by our children and not selling alcohol to them,” said Tom Arnone, ETC chairman. “These billboards are talking to parents and older siblings and reminding them that it’s okay to say no when teens ask you to buy alcohol for them. In fact, you’re demonstrating your love for them and you’re upholding the law.”

Arnone also added, “The holidays represent a great teachable moment opportunity," explaining that while many people celebrate with alcohol, it is an opportune time to demonstrate it is possible to enjoy the holidays without drinking. He also added that if alcohol is a part of your celebration, drinking in moderation can also teach children a lesson, showing them it is not necessary to get drunk to have a good time.

The billboards popped up in areas frequented by children and their parents, including near Fermi and Enfield high schools, John F. Kennedy Middle School, the corner of North Main and Enfield Street near the town hall, as well as inside the mall near Sears. The coalition intends to put billboards up during other high youth drinking times throughout the year as well, like April for Alcohol Awareness Month, June for graduation, and October for homecoming.

“Anecdotally, I know that more and more people are seeing the billboards and their message,” said Christina Turnern, Enfield Youth Services’ prevention coordinator. “Combining this media campaign with our other prevention activities is a promising, effective strategy for curbing youth substance use.”

The average age at which a young person experiments with alcohol in Enfield is 12.9 years old, according to an ETC survey. Turner hopes that getting the message out early will help thwart the negative effects of alcohol on youth, physically and emotionally. She believes the billboards are a reminder to parents that by not providing alcohol to their children, they are limiting access to this substance and helping to prevent negative consequences.

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