2016 Winner: North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking

Peter K. ORourke Special Achievement Awards
North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking

In 2013, underage drinking cost the citizens of North Carolina $1.3 billion for medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the use of alcohol by youth. To address this troubling issue, the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission, under the leadership of Chairman James Gardner, created the North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking.

The Initiative’s Talk It Out campaign is based on quantitative and qualitative research that includes focus groups and surveys to help develop high-impact messages to parents. The goal is to encourage parents to talk with their children about the dangers of underage drinking. The first phase of the campaign featured a hard-hitting, multi-media awareness effort covering the personal and deadly impact of underage drinking in North Carolina. Following this first round of radio and television advertising, researchers undertook a second round of polling. They found that the percentage of parents who said they frequently talked with their children about underage drinking increased by 10 percentage points from the level reported before the launch, but also that many parents still believed the problem only affects other families. Therefore, the second phase of the campaign, which kicked off in August 2015, focused on changing that misconception and continuing to raise awareness of the issue.

Talk It Out materials are also distributed through partnerships with a number of community groups, including the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards, the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association; Girl Scouts of North Carolina Coastal Pines; the North Carolina Pediatric Society, Medical Society and Academy of Family Physicians; and the North Carolina Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association.

The ABC Commission and the Initiative also work to educate retailers, with a comprehensive web-based training module about underage drinking prevention, fake identification recognition, and prevention of sales to intoxicated individuals. Finally, coordination with law enforcement agencies has led to an increased focus on point-of-sale enforcement, in order to stop those who are supplying alcohol to underage individuals.