April was first designated “Alcohol Awareness Month” in 1987, when the public information campaign was founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. For the past three decades, NCADD has sponsored the effort, enlisting help from federal, state and local agencies to promote understanding, reduce stigma and focus on alcohol-related issues.
Many control state agencies participate in awareness-centered activities throughout April (in addition to year-round efforts), and the overall campaign is supported by the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA) as well.
“Certainly reminding people of how they should use alcohol responsibly is an important message,” says Steve Schmidt, Senior VP of Public Policy and Communications at NABCA. “We represent agencies that are charged with creating a safe environment via regulation, while also being involved in the sales process. Our members take that responsibility very seriously.”
Many control agencies organize their own efforts during April, while others work with agencies within their state, as well as industry organization to ensure the proper messages are publicized.
“They’re using modern messaging like social media in many cases,” Schmidt says. “Some have worked with MADD to develop materials, and some have signature campaigns geared toward youth education.”
Nearly every control jurisdiction participates in some kind of messaging campaign associated with Alcohol Awareness Month. Schmidt says that members of NABCA’s education committee are always interested in this issue and pass along the latest information throughout the control system.
“We’re constantly highlighting what other members are doing,” Schmidt says. “We don’t just do it in April, but our communications committee puts forth a special effort to make sure word gets out. We leave it up to agencies to determine which projects and messages they want to emphasize, but we encourage them to contact us if we can help in any way.”
We’ve highlighted a few of the many programs agencies work on throughout Alcohol Awareness Month. For more information about how control states promote alcohol education and responsible consumption throughout the year, be sure to check out our Drink Responsibly guide at StateWays.com.
Talking It Out in North Carolina
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed April as Alcohol Awareness Month this year to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and to urge parents to talk with their kids about alcohol. Research shows that 94% of NC students believe underage drinsking is a problem, according to the governor’s office, and 8 in 10 middle-schoolers think hearing more from their parents about alcohol use would help.
The NC ABC Commission has run its “Talk it Out” program to combat this problem for a few years, in partnership with medical associations, law enforcement and parent groups. It encourages parents to start a dialogue about alcohol early with their children, and provides resources they can use to get started.
“Governor Cooper joins with North Carolina’s ABC Commission, university researchers, law enforcement, local prevention coalitions and other community leaders to urge parents to start talking to their children about alcohol,” says Katherine Haney, Director of the Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking. “The NCABCC’s Talk it Out campaign has expanded its website with more tips and tools to help parents and guardians have these conversations with their kids.”
Education and Enforcement in West Virginia
The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration routinely works with law enforcement and other governmental bodies, as well as community partnerships, non-profits like SADD and higher education institutions. Those partnerships help the agency protect youth, families and communities from the negative consequences associated with underage alcohol consumption.
In April of 2018, the WVABCA has three ongoing programs aimed at driving alcohol education awareness: the No School Spirits PSA program, the DUI Simulator and an ID compliance check program.
This year will mark the fifth time the agency has held the No School Spirits PSA contest, which involves four large public events and culminates with the release of a new underage drinking prevention message. High school students across the state enter an essay, storyboard or video that addresses the dangers of underage drinking and/or drinking and driving. In January, the entries are judged based on content, originality, quality and feasibility. Funding from NABCA, State Farm insurance and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program provides awards to the winners. Nearly 400 students entered the contest last year.
The winning entry becomes a 60-second public service announcement on television stations during prom and graduation season, as well as a 30-second radio spot. The agency’s $11,000 media buy created a return of more than $100,000 in earned media. Prize money for the winning entries is used by schools for sanctioned events or equipment purchases.
The DUI Simulator program is now in its seventh year and has reached more than 45,000 students. The program travels the state to various high schools and colleges to educate about the harmful effects of drinking and distracted driving. Young people can experience various driving conditions, hazards and scenarios while operating the simulation machine. It has a full schedule throughout April and will be on hand during the No School Spirits press event where the first-place winner is revealed.
In December, the WVABCA Enforcement Division piloted an app, Intellicheck Age ID, which enables field agents to scan IDs. The pilot took place in Morgantown, home to the state’s largest university. Working with the police department, the agency conducted operations that captured hundreds of fake and expired IDs, which were being used to gain access to bars or purchase alcohol. In April, the agency will conduct similar operations and compliance checks throughout the month.
Each year, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board holds a poster contest aimed at students to showcase effective ways to reach children and teenagers about alcohol awareness. The ceremony announcing the winners is held in April, when 50 students will be recognized in the 26th annual contest in 2018.
“The contest is so important because young people design artwork that conveys a message for other young people,” says Chairman Tim Holden. “Our contest ensures these are positive no-use messages, encouraging fun, healthy, safe alternatives to underage drinking.”
The PLCB uses the winning designs to create posters, bookmarks and coloring sheets to distribute throughout the state. Winning students also have their artwork featured in a calendar and receive cash prizes. Since the poster contest began in 1992, more than 35,000 entries have been submitted and thousands more students have participated through projects in their classrooms.
Focus on Alcohol Awareness Month in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s Division of Enforcement and Licensing runs a number of campaigns and programs throughout Alcohol Awareness Month, including a poster contest, “Buyers Beware” PSA, underage drinking and driving education, appearances by the InvestiGATOR mascot and SIDNE simulated driving experience.
The poster contest is open to all New Hampshire students, offering them an opportunity to turn around peer pressure and send friends a positive message that alcohol doesn’t have to be a part of their lives. The contest kicks off in March and ends in May, with winners receiving a prize pack including minor league baseball tickets.
The Buyers Beware campaign is used to educate and inform adults about the dangers and consequences of providing alcohol to minors. The media campaign includes print and signage, plus radio ads and social media. The logo is highlighted in the NHLC’s Sticker Shock program, where youth groups visit grocery stores to “sticker” beer packages warning buyers not to provide alcohol to minors.
The Fatal Choices education program educates participants on state law regarding underage possession and drinking of alcohol, as well as driving under the influence. It allows participants to operate a golf cart through a road course while wearing goggles that simulate impairment.
The agency is also partnering with Brown-Forman again on its Live Free & Host Responsibly campaign, which is tied to Alcohol Awareness month. Previous years have included a Cocktail & Mocktail Competition featuring Jack Daniel’s products and alcohol-free products.