Since I have heard that underage drinking is a big problem in this area and I did a fair share of drinking as a teenager, I have considered starting one of those “Scared Straight” programs for local young people who have been caught with alcohol. These wayward teenagers would have to accompany me on my regimen of attending lengthy City and County Commission meetings. That should be enough to scare any self-respecting young person into stone-cold sobriety.

Such a program would be a more effective solution to the underage drinking issue in this area than what is being proposed by the Neosho County Substance Abuse Task Force. The group received $5,000 from the county's alcohol tax fund earlier this year for the production of a locally-made movie about the dangers of underage drinking. Now this Task Force is asking the City of Chanute to kick in another $5,000 from alcohol taxes for this movie.

As much as I hate to criticize a group of local people whose hearts are obviously in the right place, there have to be better and more constructive uses for this money. The city and this region in general seem cash-strapped enough without sinking funds into this kind of wasted effort. A young person’s decision to drink is clearly not going to be dictated by some movie. Searching for videos about “dangers of underage drinking” on YouTube currently yields 21,600 results. The task force apparently thinks that these movies that already exist and can be shown to teenagers for free are not good enough to convince local kids underage drinking is not a good idea. The taxpayers who are being asked to fund the local task force's video haven’t been told yet what it will cover that can’t be found in these other 21,600 films on the same topic.

The task force is involved with other local efforts that seem a little more constructive, that I would be totally supportive of if the drinking age were lowered to 18. That way, our society wouldn’t be promoting the glaring inconsistency of declaring that 18 year-olds are old enough to smoke cigarettes, vote, and join the military, yet somehow not old enough to order a beer.

This task force didn’t come up with such laws, and I know its members are only trying to help young people in the community. If they succeed in acquiring $5,000 from the city to make this movie, I plan to offer my own services to also curb underage drinking in this area. If the County and City Commissions would each give me $4,998, I would contribute a total of four locally-produced columns in the Chanute Tribune about why it’s a bad idea for teenagers to drink. This would allow taxpayers to directly fund my creative pursuits, much like they would be funding a task force member’s television station. It would also give local young people something to read that they might find more entertaining than any info that comes from the Substance Abuse Task Force.

I guarantee that these efforts to curb underage drinking would be at least as successful as any locally-produced anti-teen-drinking film – at less of a cost. I can make such a promise, because I know that neither will make much of difference. Decisions on issues like drinking are dictated far more by personal morality, parental involvement, and social pressure from peers than by the opinion of “old guys” who write for the local newspaper or run the local television station.

If this task force would actually talk to young people in the community instead of just lecturing them, they would find that plenty of these kids just drink out of boredom. Our community seems to have a shortage of constructive activities for teenagers, especially in summertime. When local governments and other entities decide they need to save money, recreational programs that might provide young people with an alternative to drinking and other forms of substance abuse are usually first on the chopping block.

In a community where these activities are so limited, money would be much better spent on finding something for teens to do instead of creating a movie that tells them what they – and everybody else – already know.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, Internet links to good anti-underage-drinking videos, and offers to have taxpayers fund the writing of these columns to brian@chanute.com

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