FNL: Teens Help Teens Walk Away From Alcohol in Napa Valley

Remember the first time you walked in and heard your oldest child explaining something to her younger sibling—maybe like where Santa Claus really comes from? Did you get a twinge of pain when you realized your child was no longer running to you with her questions?

But I’m guessing that pain didn’t last too long. In fact, it was probably quickly replaced with pride and joy that your little child was growing up (at least enough to be able to explain away Santa Claus).

Sometimes authority-to-teen relationships are effective, but sometimes, teen-to-teen relationships are more effective. Right here in Napa Valley, California, teens aren’t waiting for adults to tell them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Rather, they’re warning their peers and friends to live healthy, successful lives.

And they’re being recognized for their efforts. In 2011, the County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrator’s Association of California (CADPAAC) named Napa County the recipient of their 2011 Alcohol and Drug Prevention Award.

What are they doing to make a difference in their friends’ lives?

Change the Peer Pressure: Redefine What “Everyone Is Doing”

Napa County teens join local chapters (Justin-Siena, Calistoga, Valley Oak, and V.O.I.C.E.S.) of Friday Night Live (FNL), a California program dedicated to promoting healthy and substance-free lifestyles for teens.

According to Napa Valley’s Friday Night Live promotional video from March 2011,

  • 41% of juniors in Napa Valley had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days
  • 29% of teens had driven after drinking
  • 76% of teens admitted that it was “easy” to get alcohol

Teens in Napa Valley’s FNL chapters are doing everything they can to improve these statistics.

Get Busy Friday Night Doing Other Things

One way chapters promote a substance-free lifestyle is to organize other kinds of activities (maybe dances or movie nights)—especially on Friday nights when the peer pressure to drink or take drugs (also see Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: A Dangerous Revolving Door) is strong. In other words, they create reverse peer pressure—the kind that says, “everybody is going to the movie tonight” rather than “everybody is drinking tonight.”

Raise Awareness

Chapters also plan targeted campaigns to help teens become aware of the drinking/alcohol issue. For example, Napa Register published an article in February 2012 about teens handing out candy that had been re-wrapped in substance-free message wrappers (i.e. Dum Dum lollipops carried the message of “Don’t be a dum-dum: don’t drink and drive”) .

Change the Laws: Fine Those Who Facilitate Underage Drinking

Another aspect to the Friday Night Live program is that teens move beyond peer-to-peer outreach and start asking hard questions to policy makers, parents, and other leaders in the community.

Laws have traditionally fined stores that sell alcohol to minors, but sometimes the minor isn’t the one doing the purchasing. Sometimes it’s the adult host. Are there legal ways to deter this access to alcohol?

Yes there are. And members of Friday Night Live in Napa Valley have worked with their county staff and law enforcement officials to adopt both a Social Ordinance and the TRACE protocol in Napa Valley.

About Social Ordinances

Social Ordinance laws hold non-commercial individuals (hosts) legally responsible for parties on their premises at which underage drinking occurs. In September 2005, the Ventura Community Limits, a community partnership for Responsible Alcohol Policies and Practices, published a “Model Social Host Liability Ordinance (PDF) ” report. Similar to the Napa Valley research, Ventura’s research suggested that teens were getting easy access to alcohol at home parties.

To help deter this trend, the report suggested communities adopt social ordinances that can be grouped into three categories:

  • State Social Host Criminal Status: holds the host criminally responsible for underage drinking at his or her party.
  • State Social Host Liability Laws: holds the host “potentially responsible for injuries to third-parties caused by guests whom the hosts had served or had allowed to consume alcoholic beverages.”
  • Response Costs Recovery Municipal Ordinance: holds hosts “responsible for the cost of law enforcement, fire, or other emergency response services associated with multiple responses to the scene of an underage drinking party.”

Chapters of FNL cannot fine the hosts of parties where minors are drinking, but teens in the chapters can, and have, worked with the county to adopt laws to deter and prevent underage drinking.