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Parents Empowered campaign has 'indeterminate impact' on underage drinking, Utah State Auditor says

Posted at 10:25 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 00:27:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Auditor's Office published its yearly review of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services Tuesday with four findings — one of them saying that the Parents Empowered campaign has an "indeterminate impact on underage drinking."

Parents Empowered has been campaigning to keep kids alcohol-free until they turn 21 since 2005, said Tiffany Clason, the executive director of the DABS.

“I have children that are in this age range," she said. "Parents Empowered campaign says that really that key target audience is between nine and 12, where children are really forming their perceptions; their attitudes are thinking about everything, including alcohol.”

Teen drinking in Utah in 2005 was 15.8 percent and dropped to 10 percent in 2019, according to data from the CDC. Nationally, in 2005, 43.3 percent of American teens were drinking, dropping to 29.2 percent in 2019: a 36.7 percent drop for Utah teens versus a 32.5 percent drop for teens across the country.

“When I look at the statistics from 2005 to now, Utah’s underage drinking rates have decreased by 65 percent," Clason said. "So they're at the lowest they've ever been since the state has been tracking that.”

READ: Utah's alcohol control authority approves mini-bottle sales

While the DABS feels the data supports that the campaign is working, Utah’s auditor was unable to conclude that more spending on the campaign equals greater reduction in underage drinking.

“While we see a decrease in underage drinking in Utah over the last 15 or 20 years or more, we can't show that the program is actually driving that reduction," said Utah State Auditor John Dougall.

The audit recommends that the DABS identify and measure key parameters which will effectively drive the campaign in accomplishing its goal.

“We come in, independent of them, to identify different areas of concern and opportunities for them to continue to improve," said Dougall.

Another finding from the audit was that Utah’s liquor prices are not adequate to cover handling expenses and capital costs; in other words, the DABS should raise the price on a case of liquor.