Monday, May 23, 2011

Burlington targets those who buy alcohol for teens


May 22, 2011|By John Laidler, Globe Correspondent

Burlington high schoolers designed the new…
The Burlington Drug and Alcohol Task Force is trying a new strategy to keep alcohol out of the hands of teenagers.

The group is undertaking a public education campaign this month targeting not teens or even their parents, but instead young adults who might be tempted to procure alcohol for underage siblings or friends.

The task force’s message to the 20-somethings, which is being conveyed through posters and flyers, is to refrain from that impulse.

“We have found that the most common way that high school students acquire alcohol is from older siblings and friends, so we wanted to reach that age group,’’ said Marilyn Belmonte, task force cochairwoman.

“Some of those in their 20s now may have had alcohol bought for them when they were in high school. So they might feel it’s the right thing to do the same for someone else,’’ she said.

Belmonte said the task force, a community organization that fights underage alcohol and illicit drug use, chose this month to deliver its message because this is the time of year when college students return home for the summer and when high schools hold their proms and graduations.

Designed by Burlington High School students, the posters are being placed in all of the town’s liquor stores and most of its pizza-serving restaurants, with the consent of those businesses.

Participating restaurants also agreed to attach the fliers — which are smaller versions of the poster — to their delivery boxes and place them in their take-out bags on Friday night and Saturday.

Belmonte got the idea for the initiative two years ago when she heard of a similar campaign that Weymouth’s substance abuse coalition was undertaking.

“I thought it was a great idea,’’ said Belmonte.

With the consent of the Weymouth coalition, the Burlington task force is employing the same slogan the South Shore group used: “Be the Designated Grown-up.’’ But Belmonte said that while the Weymouth campaign highlighted the criminal penalties young adults could incur procuring alcohol for a minor, the Burlington program is focused on the guilt they would feel if their younger sibling or friend became injured or got in trouble by consuming alcohol.

That theme came from an informal survey Belmonte conducted on Facebook last year in which she asked young adults what might deter them from buying alcohol for the underaged.

Strikingly, none said fear of criminal penalties would be a deterrent, Belmonte said.

“None of them felt that would ever happen,’’ she said of getting in trouble. “But each person said they would feel terrible if ‘something bad were to happen because I bought alcohol for my younger friend or younger brother or sister.’ ’’