Sticker Shock part of expansive anti-substance abuse campaign

Providing alcohol to anyone under age 21 is a crime. These reminders, included on eye-catching stickers, will be seen on alcohol containers beginning Tuesday, Nov. 23.

As the holidays approach, public health and law enforcement in Wahpeton and Richland County, North Dakota, are campaigning against substance abuse, particularly among youth.

Providing alcohol to anyone under age 21 is a crime, the Project YES Coalition reminds the public. The penalty is up to 365 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Parents are also considered the leading reason why youth don’t drink.

These reminders, included on eye-catching stickers, will be seen on alcohol containers beginning Tuesday, Nov. 23. Ariel Johnson, community prevention coordinator with the Richland County Health Department, is preparing for a multi-faceted approach that addresses alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use by youth.

“It’s nice community activism for youth to be a part of,” Johnson said of Sticker Shock. “It takes a stand against underage drinking. It does give compliance (standards) for adults who maybe are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends or have individuals over.”

Johnson is hopeful that Sticker Shock will inspire conversations about alcohol, risks and acceptable behavior between youth and adults.

“We hope to tie in a lot of our prevention education with enforcement efforts, to try for a bigger impact. Thanksgiving is a great time for family celebration, but there’s also that potential risk of substance use,” Johnson said.

There’s been a recent influx of fake IDs used to buy alcohol, Johnson said. Fake IDs, commonly bought online, are penalized on an escalating scale in Wahpeton. The first offense is an infraction with a $350 fine. Additional offenses are a class B misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine.

A radio ad airing locally beginning Tuesday, Nov. 22 highlights short-term and long-range consequences. The later may include identity theft, impacted credit and jeopardized privacy, officials warn.

“Get your identity stolen or get a fine, and it gets real, fast,” the ad states. “Same goes if you’re buying alcohol for a minor. Underage drinking can hurt brain development. It causes other risky choices. And it’s against the law.”

Johnson and other health leaders are also concerned about increasing use of vaping devices to smoke marijuana. Similar to smoking in general, marijuana has evolved over the decades. Officials are singling out the increase in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), identified as the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

“There’s definitely a decline in the perception of risk when it comes to vaping marijuana, as well as using marijuana in general. One thing we are seeing is the higher potency of marijuana in any product, but especially in vaping devices,” Johnson said.

Marijuana use among youth has been associated with poorer academic performance, higher dropout rates, reported increase in depressed, antisocial or suicidal behavior and other problems, according to health and law enforcement personnel.

“It’s prompting more conversations with educators, professionals, parents, students and youth,” Johnson said.

Officer Lisa Hill, Wahpeton Police Department, also reminds the public not to drink and drive. Traffic enforcement will be increased for the Thanksgiving weekend. A sober driver is always preferred over a driver with any alcohol-related impairment.

“Talk to your kids. Don’t let them make that mistake. Get real. Just say no,” Johnson said.

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