I am writing in response to a request for comment on a recent Sounder article concerning the passage of Washington State Initiative 1183. As Executive Coordinator for the Lopez Island Prevention Coalition, I am aware that there is a lack of understanding regarding the work of the Coalition. A common assumption is that we’re against alcohol; that’s not true. We are against unhealthy, irresponsible choices that put our youth and community at risk. We support the legal, safe consumption of alcohol, which by definition excludes teen drinking.
As a recipient of federal grant funds, the Coalition does not lobby for or against legislation. Part of our role in the community is to educate and advocate for decisions made on federal, state, and local levels that reduce the availability and use of drugs and alcohol among youth. In looking at this issue it may help to consider a couple of facts concerning our youth and alcohol.
The 2010 Healthy Youth Survey revealed that 35% of San Juan County 10th graders who report drinking got their alcohol from “shoulder tapping” – having someone of legal age buy them alcohol – and 6% purchased it themselves at a store. The survey also indicated a decreased perception that parents disapprove of teen substance use.
These findings highlight the importance of carefully considering decisions that affect alcohol regulation and availability, and being aware of what messages we as adults are sending to our youth.
Not all ramifications of 1183 will be readily visible on Lopez; in the Sounder article, Lopez Liquor Store owner Marc Zener stated that he will continue in operation, and Lopez Village Market owner Aaron Dye said he won’t sell liquor as long as Zener is in business. But the initiative’s long-term effects on our state and community remain to be seen.
In November, voters made their decision. The Lopez Island Prevention Coalition encourages those who voted for Initiative 1183 and those who voted against it to come together to ensure this new legislation does not mean increased availability of alcohol to island youth.
Cook is the Coordinator for the Lopez Island Prevention Coalition