How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted underage drinking in Pa.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — We’re learning more about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted underage drinking. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board released a report outlining some alarming trends.

The summer season is approaching, which many consider the party season. The state says now more than ever, this information is important to have and to put to use.

The board found the COVID-19 lockdown impacted college kids just like everyone else. Anxiety and loneliness increased.

As campuses closed and learning moved online, students turned to alcohol.

That’s both nationally and in the Keystone State.

PA’s biennial report says one third of people age 20 and under reported binge drinking at least once in the last month.

It also found children that begin drinking by age 13 are four times more likely to become alcohol-dependent later in life.

Something else noteworthy is where kids are getting their alcohol. About 26%, more than one in four, got it from a parent.

Those who are drinking are younger than you may think.

“One in three eight-year-olds has tried alcohol, which is a mind-blowing number when you really think about it,” said Shawn Kelly, the press secretary at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. “By the time a child reaches twelve, about two in three say they’ve tried alcohol. So we try to reach out to parents of kids that age to teach them how to have an intelligent conversation and start talking to their kids about the dangers of alcohol.”

Tips for parents to discuss alcohol with their kids, like using pop culture as a segue to the topic, are addressed in the Know When Know How campaign.

The board is using this report to shape how it addresses alcohol education, which it spends millions of dollars on each year.

Something that’s being planned now and will pick up this fall is updates to its educational series that teaches college resident assistants to look for warning signs of dangerous patterns.

The state will continue to provide grants to community organizations, law enforcement and educators for awareness activities.

The Know When Know How website and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s website have resources for all Pennsylvanians.

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