Drinking and the Prom

Talk about mixed messages: Gulf Shores (Ala.) High School students were participating in a program to urge teens not to drink on prom night. But that didn't stop the school from handing out commemorative beer mugs and shot glasses to every boy at the prom.

Apparently such mementos are a southern Alabama tradition. An investigation by the Mobile Register newspaper last year found that about one-third of the region's high schools gave out alcohol-related prom souvenirs to students. Two of them decided to drop the tradition this year, the Washington Post reports. But not Gulf Shores High. The legal drinking age in Alabama, by the way, is 21.

Underage drinking is a serious problem, especially when it occurs around special occasions, such as prom night. Some parents seem to feel, mistakenly, that as long as their teenage children aren't driving, underage drinking is harmless.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as Drs. Alvin Poussaint and Susan Linn, both of Harvard University, point out:

• Drinking puts teens in danger. For example, 90 percent of all crimes on college campuses, including rape and murder, are alcohol related.

• A 1997 survey showed one-third of high school seniors engaged in binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row) during the previous month.

Parents should teach kids how to resist peer pressure to drink. They can offer to pick them up at any time. They should find out what other parents' standards are and refuse to let their teens attend activities where adults are giving booze to kids. Most of all, they should know where their teenagers are going and what they are doing on prom night - or any night, for that matter.

If helps, of course, if high schools don't promote a double standard. Ultimately, it's parents' responsibility to see that the message on drinking is clear - at home and at school.

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