For adults only

Key Clubs in Maine and New York caution against underage substance use.

Story by Lydia Johnson

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among young people in the United States. And when young people drink, they consume more than 90% of that alcohol through binge drinking — consuming a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time.

A 2018 University of Michigan study showed an alarming increase in the number of young people who try vaping — a habit that has led to dozens of deaths in the United States alone.

Key Clubbers in Maine and New York decided to take action to reverse these trends. 

On New Year’s Eve, members of the Nokomis Regional High Key Club in Newport, Maine, took a (sticker) shock-inducing approach to prevent teen alcohol use. They visited three liquor stores to place bright-orange stickers on alcohol cases on shelves, in coolers and in stockrooms.

The urgent message: Buying alcohol for minors is illegal and could result in a fine of up to US$2,000 or a year in jail.

The “Sticker Shock” program was coordinated through the Drug Free Communities Project at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital, where Jessica Ouellette is a program manager. Ouellette also is the president of the Key Club’s sponsor, the Greater Pittsfield Area Kiwanis Club in Maine.

“If they see kids their age participating in programs like this, it may make them think twice.”

The program hits home in the club’s rural area, where teens experiment with alcohol due to a lack of engaging activities, says Key Club advisor Robert Kreider. A 2017 survey of two area high schools showed that 19% of students drank in the past 30 days, and 56% had easy access to alcohol. Key Clubbers joined the “Sticker Shock” effort to incite change, he says.

“If they see kids their age participating in programs like this, it may make them think twice.”

Vaping, meanwhile, presents a more recent threat. North Shore High School Key Club members in Glen Head, New York, learned that middle schoolers in their community are using electronic cigarettes intended for adults.

In response, Julia Salat, Key Club advisor and member of the sponsoring Kiwanis Club of North Shore, Long Island, helped students create a presentation about vaping for their Major Emphasis project. Fifty-six members devoted 1,000 hours to completing the presentation, including sourcing facts, writing scripts and videography. In each presentation, teen hosts share a slideshow detailing vaping facts, health risks and vaping-related illnesses.

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Since November, Key Clubbers have presented the program to middle and high school students and adults in Kiwanis family organizations like Aktion Club. A YouTube video of the presentation is featured on the high school’s website.

The goal, says Salat, is encouraging better decision-making.

“We’re hoping that with education, we’ll be able to make a difference with our project.”

This story originally appeared in the April/May issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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