Sticker shock campaign fights underage drinking

by Morgan Smith

Malia Brown, left, and Autumn Chadwick, both students at Myers Park High School, sticker alcopops, or sweet alcoholic beverages such as Mikes Hard Lemonade, with “Put a Cap on Underage Drinking” stickers at Pasta and Provisions on Providence Road. The girls are members of SPIDA, an entity of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Drug Free Coalition.

Several Charlotte-area teens are tired of underage drinking and are taking action in their communities, reminding teens, adults and convenience store workers alike to put a cap on underage drinking.

Senior Malia Brown and junior Autumn Chadwick from Myers Park High School, along with students from Vance High and Northwest School of the Arts, are part of the Students Preventing and Informing on Drugs and Alcohol (SPIDA) committee. The group, which is a youth entity of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Drug Free Coalition, kicked-off its “Alcopops Sticker Shock” campaign Monday, May 21. Alcopops are sweetly flavored alcoholic products such as Smirnoff and Mikes Hard Lemonade that SPIDA says are sometimes marketed to teens.

The group split up and traveled to convenience stores across Charlotte, two on Providence Road, three on Statesville Road and two in the Sugar Creek area, to clearly label alcopops with warning “21 and older” stickers when allowed by storeowners, as well as to pass out fliers that explain why alcopops are targeted to teens.

Chadwick said she got involved with the campaign because it’s time for people to take action.

“It’s definitely a really good initiative because you always want to take action and if there is no one to take a leadership role in it, then it’s never going to get done,” she said.

The stickers, which are labeled with the words “Put a Cap on Underage Drinking,” are not just to point out age requirements to students and adults who may be tempted to buy alcohol for teens, but also to remind cashiers and convenience store workers to check for identification.

“This is kind of like that bright little headlight when they come up to purchase something,” Marcella Young, a SPIDA advisor for the Drug Free Coalition, said. “This is a way to kind of take it from both aspects, from not only the purchaser who may be buying alcohol for younger people, but as well as the person who may be selling.”

The sticker shock campaign is actually statewide, where Preventing Underage Drinking, or PUD, funded the project.

“That’s where we got money to do the stickers and we made fliers that … talk about the alcopops, which are a big deal because of the way they are advertised to younger people,” Young said.

She added that several counties across North Carolina have already done the project, and received good responses in reminding people to check identification. The group hopes to continue to spread the program in other convenience stores across the city, Young said.

“We would love to have a bigger spread of people we reach out to because the more people that are educated on what’s happening, the better chance we have at stopping underage  drinking,” Young said.

In order to get the ball rolling on the project, SPIDA contacted storeowners in different parts of the city. Participating stores signed a release giving permission to the group to sticker the store’s products.

“It’s just great to see people who sell alcohol so willing to help the effort to prevent underage drinking,” Young said.

Brown said she knows teens her age drink the alcopops, and although the sticker shock campaign won’t stop underage drinking, it’s at least a start.

“I think it’s going to be a one-step-at-a-time process,” she said. “I think a lot of kids don’t know the dangers of alcohol – they think it’s cool. It’s good that there is an age barrier on (alcohol) and that we are making that aware to people. I think it will be a good reminder.”

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