Thursday, May 31, 2012

WA Supreme Court opinions affirm link between liquor and public safety risks

The Washington State Supreme Court today ruled, 5-4, that Initiative 1183 is constitutional.  Starting tomorrow, liquor (spirits, hard alcohol) will be for sale in grocery and other stores that are at least 10,000 square feet.

Both the majority and dissenting Supreme Court opinions affirm what substance abuse prevention advocates have been saying all along: increased access to alcohol means increased public safety risks.  

The justices that voted to uphold I-1183 wrote:
. . . liquor has an obvious connection to broader pubic safety concerns . . . As local government officials assert in their amici brief, the burden of enforcing liquor sales laws and prosecuting offenders falls heavily on local governments.   

It would be improper to overlook the impact that changes to liquor regulation could have on general public safety expenditures by local governments.   

The justices that found I-1183 unconstitutional wrote:
First, respondents (Costco, State) argue that “public safety is rationally connected to liquor.  On a theoretical level, this is undoubtably true.  The consumption of liquor increases public safety risks; drunk driving and alcoholism come quickly to mind.  Thus, the State contends that funneling liquor tax money into public safety ameliorates the damage done by the initiative or is a hedge against the increased public safety risk that would come along with higher liquor consumption and easier access to liquor. 

 . . . proponents of I-1183 (Costco) never acknowledged (during the campaign) that privatizing liquor would lead to increased consumption or public safety risk.   

During the lawsuit hearings, proponents of I-1183 contested that increased access to liquor will increase public safety risks.  This is different from what they claimed during the campaign last fall.  We substance abuse prevention advocates would do well to remember this as the alcohol industry, including businesses that sell alcohol, continue to try to chip away at alcohol regulations.   

The majority opinion specifically states that those of us who work to prevent substance abuse have an interest in regulating alcohol:  Indeed, intervenors (Costco, State) stress the established relationship between public safety and liquor . . . such as the increase in liquor availability would injure WASAVP’s (Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention -- the substance abuse prevention community’s) goals. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Liquor Control Board will not consider extending alcohol service hours

Today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board denied the City of Seattle's request to open rule-making regarding hours of alcohol service.  In Washington, liquor sales will continue to be prohibited between the hours of 2-6:00 a.m.

The two Board members who voted to deny the City of Seattle's request cited concerns about public health and safety.  For instance, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs recently took a position against extended hours.  Community substance abuse prevention advocates pointed to the National Prevention Strategy that recommends reducing hours of alcohol sales as a proven way to reduce excessive drinking.  

In his public statement, the one Board member who voted to move forward with the City of Seattle's request states, "Our decision today begs the question of what exactly is the role of this three-person Board in the wake of Initiative 1183?  If it is not to oversee a healthy and public dialogue on complex, contentious issues that deal with alcohol access, what is it?  That's not for me to answer here today, but I do believe it is a conversation that will begin in the near future, and our inaction today is as good a starting point as any."

While I think that the Board did, in fact, oversee a healthy and public dialogue about a complex, contentious issue over the past few months, I also think he makes a good point about the role of the Board post-liquor privatization.  I think he's right when he says that the role of the Board and the role of alcohol regulations in our state are part of a conversation that needs to continue.  Those of us concerned with public health and safety should be ready for it.

Statements from each of the Board members may be viewed through the Liquor Control Board website.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rainier adopts state's second social host ordinance

Earlier this week, the City Council in Rainier, a city southeast of Olympia, passed the state's second social host law.  The goal of the new ordinance is to curb underage drinking.

If an underage gathering involves alcohol, the ordinance will hold responsible the person who owns, rents, leases or controls the property where the party happened.  Those held liable will face civil repercussions including fines.

Social host laws are one tool that communities can use to reduce underage alcohol use.  The ordinance encourages parents and property owners to work together to prevent underage drinking.  "This isn't just about enforcement, it's about educating our community that there is never a safe time for minors to consume alcohol," said Rainier Mayor Randy Schleis.

Mercer Island was the first Washington community to pass a social host ordinance.  The first citation was given and the fine was paid earlier this year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nathan Hale High School Town Hall Meeting on preventing youth drug & alcohol use

For parents: A discussion on why, when and how to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol!
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
7-8:45 p.m.
Nathan Hale High School

Sponsored and hosted by Raiders Against Destructive Decisions, a student-run organization promoting healthy choices in high school.

Surgeon General to speak at UW about preventing tobacco use among youth and adults

Youth and Tobacco Town Hall Meeting
University of Washington (Kane Hall), Seattle Campus
Thursday, June 14, 2012
7:30 a.m. - 4:40 p.m.

Three of of our nation’s top health leaders will be in Seattle for this important meeting.

-- Surgeon General Regina Benjamin will discuss her recently released report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.

-- Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director, FDA Center for Tobacco Products, will then discuss the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and FDA’s action agenda for tobacco product regulation.

-- Dr. Timothy McAfee, Director, CDC Office on Smoking and Health will also join the morning plenary session.

This Town Hall–style meeting will be attended by public health professionals, tobacco use prevention specialists, educators, advocates, policy makers and—importantly—young people from around the Pacific Northwest. The overarching goal of the meeting is to share information, tools, and best practices in tobacco use prevention, to enhance existing efforts and to devise new strategies to help youth and young people resist social and industry pressure to initiate tobacco use, or to end tobacco use if it has already begun.

If you have any questions contact

Monday, May 21, 2012

Upcoming community events about underage drinking and youth substance abuse

Two upcoming community meetings, one in the Central District and one in Ballard, will focus on underage drinking and youth drug use.

"Dog Talk": Listen to youth and adults talk about alcohol and other drug use and whit is really happening at Garfield High School and in Central Seattle
Wednesday, May 23
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Garfield Community Center, Seattle
Guest Speaker: Steve Freng, Prevention/Treatment Manger for NWHIDTA

"Keeping Tabs on your Teen this Summer!"
Year-end parent support event from the new NW Seattle Coalition for a Drug-Free Community
Tuesday May 29
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Ballard Library, Seattle  
Guest Speaker: Frank Couch from the SAMA Foundation will speak about ways to clarify family rules and expectations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Liquor Control Board seeks public input about rules to implement I-1183

The Washington State Liquor Control Board would like your input on proposed rules to implement Initiative 1183 which privatized liquor sales in Washington. The following chapters in WAC 314 will be addressed in this rule making:

  • WAC 314-05  Special Occasion Licenses
  • WAC 314-11  General requirements for licensees
  • WAC 314-13  Retail licensees purchasing beer, wine, and spirits
  • WAC 314-24  Domestic wineries and domestic wine distributors
  • WAC 314-27  Interstate Commercial Common Passenger Carriers
  • WAC 314-30  Manufacturers
  • WAC 314-36  Importers, Public Storage Warehouses and Importation of Liquor
  • WAC 314-37  Non-state liquor stores
  • WAC 314-38  Permits
  • WAC 314-42  Liquor Control Board operations
  • WAC 314-44  Licensed Agents
  • WAC 314-45  Serving and donating liquor by suppliers at trade conventions of licensees
  • WAC 314-52 Advertising
  • WAC 314-64  Liquor samples
  • WAC 314-76  Special orders

Public Comment
Please forward you initial comments to the Liquor Control Board by June 27, 2012.

Public Hearing
June 27, 2012, 10:00 a.m.
Washington State Liquor Control Board – Board Room
3000 Pacific Avenue SE, Olympia, WA

If you have any questions, please contact the Liquor Control Board at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prescription drug abuse: resources, local data, prevention

Online resource for teens
NIDA recently launched PEERx, a national public awareness campaign to inform teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.  PEERx provides educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the impact of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body.

Prescription drug abuse can lead to heroin use
Recent stories by KPLU and reported that heroin use has increased among young people in King County.  Here's an excerpt from

"It's disturbing and concerning and unfortunately not surprising," said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute . . . "We've seen a big increase in the number of young adults (18-29) coming into drug treatment for heroin over the last 10 years in King County, that number has about doubled," he said. "It's concerning because it's generally several years before a person enters drug treatment after they've begun using a drug. So, if we're looking at young adults, it means they're starting in adolescence."

For many youth hooked on heroin, their addiction began with prescription pain pills like OxyContin. 

In an annual survey of heroin users, Banta-Green said 40 percent admitted that that they were initially hooked on prescription pain type pills.  

"There's a very clear connection," he said. 

Local data
Washington substance abuse data, by county, is available on the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute's website.  Data include deaths related to prescription opiates.

Source of prescription drugs: family and friends
The Office of National Drug Control Policy released a new analysis of data from the 2009 and 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealing that the majority of new or occasional nonmedical users of pain relievers obtained the drug from family or friends for free or took them without asking.

Data from the national Monitoring the Future study confirms this.

What can be done?
The April 23 CESAR FAX suggests that reducing the available supply of prescription drugs in households through drug take-back programs is one method that may reduce the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.  In Washington, the Take Back Your Meds coalition continues to advocate for a permanent statewide take-back program funded by pharmaceutical companies.  

Other ways to prevent prescription drug abuse are discussed in a recent New York Times online forum.

A federal bill was introduced that would link states' prescription drug monitoring programs.  The nationwide system would allow physicians to see if a new patient has a history of drug abuse in another state before writing a prescription.

Monday, May 14, 2012

National Prevention Week starts Monday

Next week is National Prevention Week and Monday's theme is preventing underage drinking.

Everyone plays a role in prevention. Small actions make a big difference. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) asks prevention advocates to pledge support and take action to prevent substance abuse and promote mental health.  Here are a few steps individuals can take:

-- Talk to others about the prevention of substance use and the promotion of mental, emotional and behavioral well-being.

-- Encourage children, friends and/or family members to improve their mental, emotional, and behavioral health by promoting rest, a healthy diet, physical exercise, and time outdoors.

-- Point loved ones in the direction of resources that can help them improve their mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being.

-- Talk with a friend or loved one who has been having a difficult time and discuss things that are bothering him/her.

-- Spread the prevention message online by posting about and linking to National Prevention Week 2012 on Facebook and Twitter pages, and on a blog or Web site.

The video below, featuring Director Fran Harding of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, provides a brief overview of National Prevention Week. Director Harding also shares how communities are participating and what you can do to get involved during National Prevention Week and throughout the year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marijuana in the news

Here are links to marijuana related stories that I've been collecting over the past month.

Teen heavy marijuana use increased significantly since 2008
New, nationally projectable survey results released earlier this month by The Partnership at and MetLife Foundation found that past-month marijuana use – particularly heavy use – increased significantly among U.S. high school students since 2008.

California's Emerald Triangle pot market is hitting bottom
Since medical marijuana was legalized in California, illegal marijuana farms have sprung up throughout Humboldt County, known as the "Emerald Triangle".  The supply of marijuana now exceeds demand and prices have dropped.  With too much marijuana flooding the medical marijuana market, some people are selling it illegally.  

Why we should not legalize marijuana
This article is part of a CNBC special report, Marijuana & Money.  The report contains many articles from both sides of the debate.

Rethinking the War on Drugs
This essay, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, makes the case that "prohibition and legalization aren't the only choices when it comes to drugs."

Obama Drug Czar stumps for 'third way' policy
“Over the past few years, this public debate on drug policy lurches between two extreme views,” White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said during a speech today at the Center for American Progress.

“On one side we have a very vocal, organized, well-funded advocates who insist that drug legalization is a ‘silver bullet’ for addressing our nation’s drug problem. Then we have the other side. On the other side of the debate are those who insist that a law-enforcement-only, ‘War on Drugs’ approach … is the way to create a drug free society,” Kerlikowske said.

“The Obama administration strongly believes that neither of these approaches is humane, realistic, or — most importantly — grounded in science,” Kerlikowske said.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Prom advice for parents

Seattle Children's Adolescent Medicine physician Cora Breuner offers advice for parents to keep their teenagers safe at prom and after prom.

FTC requires alcohol producers to release information about digital marketing

The Federal Trade Commission has required 14 major alcoholic beverage advertisers to provide information for the agency’s fourth major study on the effectiveness of voluntary industry guidelines for reducing advertising and marketing to underage audiences by beer, wine, and distilled spirits manufacturers.

For the first time, the agency will request information on Internet and digital marketing and data collection practices.  As in previous studies, the FTC also will seek advertising expenditure and placement data, and background information about the advertisers’ business practices.

The marketing landscape has changed dramatically since 2008, the last time the FTC collected this kind of information.  Today there is a much greater emphasis on social media. For example, Bacardi has at least seven Facebook pages, with a total of 1.7 million fans, according to David Jernigan, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. He notes that Captain Morgan Rum has a video game app for iPhones. Many companies connect with consumers through Twitter.

Jernigan says that outside of regulating “unfair or misleading” advertising, the FTC generally allows the alcohol industry to set its own ad guidelines.  See the April 20 post about how one alcoholic beverage company gets around some of its own guidelines.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a video describing the problem of binge drinking including the increase in youth exposure to alcohol advertising in recent years.

For more information about how the alcoholic beverage industry uses social media, view the CAMY YouTube videos about digital alcohol marketing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Washington making progress in addressing youth exposure to alcohol marketing

Most states do not address youth exposure to alcohol marketing, according to a new report from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY).

Only eleven states use more than one of eight recommended strategies to reduce youth exposure to alcohol.  Washington State implements all elements of one best practice and some elements of three other best practices.  According to the report, Washington fully implements the recommendation to establish explicit jurisdiction over in-state electronic media.  It partially implements the following recommendations:

  • Prohibit false or misleading alcohol advertising.
  • Restrict outdoor alcohol advertising in locations where children are likely to be present.
  • Limit giveaways (contests, raffles, etc.)

The four recommendations that Washington does not implement are:

  • Prohibit alcohol advertising that targets minors.
  • Restrict alcohol advertising on retail outlet windows and in outside areas.
  • Prohibit alcohol advertising on college campuses.
  • Restrict sponsorship of civic events. 

The report notes that Washington has made progress within the past few years:  The Washington State Liquor Control Board conducted a broad review of its advertising rules in 2010, including many of the topics found in this report.  The preamble to its new rules states that the "liquor control board regulates alcohol advertising to . . . reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing" (Washington Admin. Code 314-52-005).  Although the revisions were relatively modest . . . they represent an important first step in asserting control over alcohol advertising that targets youth.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Webcast: Getting to Outcomes in Underage Drinking Prevention

On May 21, from 10-11:30 a.m., the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will host Getting to Outcomes in Underage Drinking Prevention, a live, interactive webcast.  The webcast will highlight communities that are using Town Hall Meetings to engage individuals and organization in achieving measurable outcomes through the use of evidence-based environmental prevention strategies.  A panel of national, State, and local activists will discuss approaches that are working to prevent and reduce underage alcohol use and its consequences and will respond to questions and comments from online participants.  The webcast supports SAMHSA's National Prevention Week and, specifically, Underage Drinking Prevention Day on May 21.  

Details on how to log in or pose questions to the panel will be posted on May 21. No registration is required.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Overview of youth substance abuse problem and possible solutions

A commentary published in the May 2012 edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health provides a good overview of the adolescent substance abuse problem.  Some things I learned from the article are:

  • Among adolescents who use addictive substances, 65% use more than one drug.  
  • Among adolescents who have ever used tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, 19% meet the clinical criteria for having a substance use disorder as do 33% of current users.
  • Only 6% of high school students who have a substance use disorder receive formal treatment.  Fewer teens who need treatment receive it compared with other age groups.
"Moreover, addictive substances have a greater negative impact on the adolescent brain than the adult brain, increasing the risk of further use, adversely influencing the development of the regions of the brain associated with judgment, attention, memory and reward seeking, and increasing the risk of addiction."  

The article goes on to outline influences that drive adolescent substance abuse such as parents, the media, availability and individual challenges.  It closes by stating, "Despite a significant body of scientific evidence demonstrating these facts, this knowledge [about adolescent substance abuse] has not been translated broadly into public health and medical practice."  

This is where coalitions can begin to create change.  Since coalitions are composed of individuals representing different sectors of a community, information about adolescent substance abuse and how we can prevent it can be widely shared.  Coalition members can play a significant role in educating others in the community.  

Prevention part of the National Drug Control Strategy

I recently posted information from the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy.  The strategy highlights the importance of youth substance abuse prevention:

Drug use, including the abuse of prescription medications and underage drinking, significantly affects the health and well-being of the Nation's youth and young adults.  Substance use affects academic performance and military preparedness and is linked to crime, motor vehicle crashes and fatalities, lost productivity, and increase health care costs.  Stopping use before it begins can increase an individual's chances of living a longer, healthier, and more productive life.  Put simply, drug prevention saves lives and cuts long-term costs.  Recent research has shown that each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.  

The strategy goes on to describe the many community-level prevention activities that are supported by federal dollars.  Among them are Drug Free Communities (DFC) coalitions, such as Prevention WINS.  A national evaluation of the 718 DFC coalitions found that youth substance use declined significantly in communities with DFC grantees.

In NE Seattle, served by the Prevention WINS coalition, underage drinking rates declined significantly between 2006 -- when the coalition was formed -- and 2010.  During that time, the coalition's primary focus was the reduction of underage drinking rates that were higher than the state average.  Many community organizations and individuals came together and conducted a variety of prevention strategies and activities that supported healthy decision making among middle and high school students.

The chart below shows the 2006 and 2010 alcohol-related data for 10th grade students in NE Seattle -- Nathan Hale and Roosevelt High School combined -- according to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Seattle Police collect 697 pounds of unwanted medications

Saturday was National Drug Take Back Day and people dropped off expired, unwanted or unused prescription medications at the five Seattle Police Department precincts.  According to Seattle Police, a total of 697.15 pounds of unwanted medications were dropped off.  Here is the precinct break-down:

-- North Precinct-176.50 pounds
-- West Precinct-170.70 pounds
-- South Precinct-43.55 pounds
-- East Precinct-67.95 pounds
-- Southwest Precinct-238.45 pounds

Since Washington State does not have a statewide medicine return program, it is often difficult for people to get rid of unused medications in an environmentally safe way.  With youth prescription drug abuse on the rise in Washington State, getting rid of unused medicines is one prevention tool for families.

Saturday's event was was another great success and there will be another one again in the fall.  In the meantime, learn more about establishing a permanent statewide medicine return program at the Take Back Your Meds website.