The latest fashions, the hippest music, the newest expressions – teens keep up with it all. YouTube has become a fast-track for sharing cutting edge information among teens. While much of YouTube sharing is relatively harmless, it’s also a place where bad ideas go viral. A prime example of this is the popularity of
videos showing kids how to inhale, or smoke, alcohol.
Smoking alcohol sounds impossible but, essentially, instead of swallowing it, teens are encouraged to breathe it in. The YouTube videos with over a million hits show viewers how to pour a small amount of hard liquor into an empty two liter soda bottle and then pump the bottle full of air. Viewers are then encouraged to inhale the alcohol vapor for a practically instantaneous buzz.
These videos are spreading all sorts of misinformation like “smoking alcohol under age 21 years is not illegal”, “no one will be able to smell alcohol on your breath” and “smoking alcohol has fewer calories than drinking”. Every one of those claims is false.
For starters, parents and police officers will be able to smell alcohol on the breath because when a person smokes alcohol it goes directly into the lungs. If it’s in your lungs, it’s on your breath. But that is only lie number one.
When a person drinks alcohol there is a metabolization process that takes around 20 minutes before the alcohol fully enters the bloodstream. Inhaling alcohol fumes bypasses that slow process and shoots the alcohol more quickly into the bloodstream. The toxic alcohol fumes are sent almost directly to the
brain, and it gets there through the bloodstream. If it’s in your blood, it will show up on a blood test. Lie number two.
Lie number three is the claim that smoking alcohol has fewer calories. Doctors tell us that alcohol in the bloodstream doesn’t care how it got there. Smoke it or drink it – alcohol has calories.
The fourth lie is that smoking alcohol before you turn 21 is legal. This is false. Consuming alcohol in any way before age 21 is against the law.
Teens are lured in by the thrill of feeling drunk instantly, but the dangers of alcohol are also sped up. Normally, when a person over-drinks their body uses several built-in protections. The person gets sleepy or passes out – this keeps them from drinking more. Sometimes the body deals with too much
alcohol by throwing up. But when alcohol is inhaled all of these self-protective mechanisms are bypassed. That means that alcohol poisoning can happen much faster.
It doesn’t take much alcohol to do grave harm when teens are breathing in the fumes. This highlights the importance of knowing that when your teen is at another person’s house there is no alcohol available and there is plenty of adult supervision.
BC Rocks is one way parents in Buchanan County can work together to create a safer environment for teens. By signing a pledge to make your home alcohol-safe and well-supervised you give other parents peace of mind. You also protect teens from their own trendiness.
Do you think that by allowing your teenager to have alcohol at home you can de-mystify alcohol and safely monitor its use? Or have you heard that that if teens are allowed to drink under your roof that they will not be as likely to abuse alcohol later on? These are common myths that many parents have heard and believe.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org wants to help parents get the facts about teens and drinking, including teens who are permitted by their parents to drink in the house. To help parents better understand the consequences of serving alcohol to minors the Partnership at Drugfree.org has joined together with The Treatment Research Institute to create an interactive website where moms and dads can access research-based information.
Some parents fall into the trap of believing that permitting kids to drink at home de-mystifies alcohol making it less likely that they will want to irresponsibly drink as they grow up. In fact, the reverse is true. Serving alcohol to minors makes it more likely (not less) that teens will drink as they grow up.
Other parents worry that holding a tight line against drinking will encourage rebellious drinking by their teen as soon as they leave home post-high school. In fact, studies show that teens who think their parents have a permissive attitude toward alcohol drinking often drink more than kids from homes with stricter attitudes against alcohol.
Parents who decide to serve alcohol to their teens sometimes point to Europe where families commonly serve alcohol even to young family members. These parents should be aware that doing so does not insulate kids against problem drinking later on. In fact, in Europe, where alcohol is more free-flowing, kids get drunk sooner and experience higher rates of alcohol abuse as they get older compared to kids growing up in American families.
The facts show that it is neither safe nor preventive to serve alcohol to teens, even at home. In fact, it is illegal to do so. Parents can look at the Drugfee.org website to find out what legal liabilities exist in their state.
Here in St Joseph, Missouri the Youth Alliance is sponsoring a program titled BC Rocks. BC stands for Buchanan County and the program encourages parents to go on record as a home where alcohol will not be served to minors. Parents who allow their teens to spend time at someone else’s home can look up the family’s name on the BC Rocks registry to see if it is an alcohol-free environment.
Serving alcohol to underage teenagers does nothing to prevent alcohol abuse. The facts show that making it clear to teens that alcohol use will not be permitted does work to prevent abuse. Youth Alliance has formed the BC Rocks campaign to help parents to stand together against teen alcohol use.