Take a look around your community. Have you ever noticed just how many advertisements you and your children see every day? It is everywhere – on billboards, on cars, street corners, telephone poles, store fronts, in parking lots…. all at eye level to our children, enticing them to use alcohol and other intoxicants that many parents don’t even know about.
Did you know that you can add bath salts to the list of substances teens are using to huff, smoke and ingest in order to get high?
And the research says that youth are more influenced than adults by ads using cartoons and sports stars. They’re also more likely to buy products that are sweet or candy flavored, such as candy-flavored tobacco products and fruity tasting alcoholic beverages. Take a moment to think about just how many media and marketing messages are specifically targeting our children.
This method of “paying attention” via observation and surveillance is called an environmental scan, and we encourage parents, youth and community leaders to “scan” their environments – both at home and in the neighborhood.
The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County uses environmental scans to collect data, inform leaders and decision makers about the results, and advocate for change!
Open your eyes
For example, in 2011, LiveFree! conducted alcohol environmental scans at 109 alcohol-serving establishments (convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, etc.) in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Clearwater and Largo, and the results were eye-opening:
- Businesses surveyed had a total of 4,056 different signs advertising products inside and outside their locations. Of that total,almost half (1,752 of the advertisements) contained alcohol-related messages, which is 43%.
- 62.4% of the business surveyed did not have signs inside their businesses indicating the legal age to purchase alcohol.
- 99% of businesses surveyed did not have the signage required by Pinellas County Code of Ordinances, Part II, Section 6.2, which requires businesses that sell alcohol to post a public health warning in a conspicuous place stating “Warning: Drinking Alcoholic Beverages During Pregnancy Can Cause Birth Defects.”
LiveFree! used those results to ask local store owners to help reduce the amount of “eye traffic” bombarding our children, and equipped County officials with the detailed information they needed to bring retailers into compliance.
This past January, LiveFree! youth and adult leaders conducted environmental scans during MLK Day festivities and along the MLK parade route, also distributing information about how to access alcohol, drug treatment and mental health resources here in our City.
Help the cause
We encourage you to join our efforts and get involved today. If you can help with environmental scans or volunteer with one of our LiveFree clubs, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (813) 503-5658.
Jackie Griffin is the Executive Director of the LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County.