Bibs target teenage drinking: Dental patients get an alcohol warning as they open wide

March 6, 2007

The latest billboard in the ongoing campaign against teenage drinking is a bib — a dental bib.
Parents Empowered and the Utah Dental Association aren’t exactly drooling over their idea, but they’re pretty excited about a public awareness campaign kicked off Wednesday using the unconventional medium and the captive confines of the dental chair.

The slogan printed upside-down on the bib for best possible viewing by those who in the coming months find themselves in that extremely well-lighted, nearly inverted, highly compliant position reads: “Alcohol does to teen’s brains what sugar does to teeth.”

A bib is hardly the banner-sized campaign of this past spring in which 55 garbage trucks were wrapped with the catchphrase: “Alcohol can trash your kid’s brain” and carried along some 3.3 million miles of pickup routes in and around Salt Lake City.

“But research shows that messages concerning health and physical well-being are often better received in a health-care setting than messages carried in other media,” said campaign spokeswoman Sherri Clark.
Although it’s pretty small-screen by comparison, the campaign makes up in circulation by being featured in dental offices across the state.

A little pain — or rather brief discomfort — that patients may associate with the message is a plus according to organizers who see it as a way to keep the point in mind. The bibs are to be used by dental staff during routine cleanings. Along with a new toothbrush and a promise to floss, patients will leave with right-side-up brochures and pamphlets reminding them that alcohol is one of the worst things kids can put in their mouths, Clark said.

The campaign is about kids, but it’s aimed at their parents who studies keep showing are the No. 1 reason kids don’t drink and the No. 1 reason they do. National and state alcohol control and substance abuse agencies repeatedly find that a parents hold all the power, whether it’s an outright household ban or supplying six-packs of beer for a high school graduation party.

The latter might be the “cool parent” approach as far as teens are concerned. But according to a famous study at Columbia University, an-alcohol enhanced party courtesy of a “just-this-once” parent is where most who end up with drinking problems later in life say they got their start.

Results also show that underage drinkers — many as young as 12 — manage to find million a year to spend on alcohol. Those surveyed said that many of the minors have jobs, but parents often act as accessories to the crime — which it is whether the party is at home or at a hotel — by buying it or looking the other way.
The Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission says 70 percent of illegally consumed alcohol comes from parents or other adults. When asked by public health agencies, half of all high school students in Utah report having used alcohol in the previous month.