Engaging young people in advocacy, education & prevention
Creating social change around alcohol, drugs, and more

Assessing the situation

September 5, 2014 10:45 am Published by Comments Off on Assessing the situation

Jaimee H, 21, was Straight Up’s intern in summer 2014 and wrote about her experiences with us and about drug and alcohol prevention in general. 

Straight Up volunteers conduct an assessment of a Ventura County liquor retailer.

There are very particular rules that liquor stores, gas station mini markets, and other convenience stores are supposed to follow regarding advertisements within and outside the store, location of and access to alcohol and tobacco products, alertness of clerk and their aids that assist them in keeping an eye on who is accessing the alcoholic beverages, the posting of rules as to who can purchase what, and more.

This past summer, I took a group of youth volunteers out to assess random locations like these in the city of Ventura. Often what we found was shocking. Windows were covered with so many advertisements that visibility into the store was impossible and much of these advertisements promoted alcohol or tobacco products. Advertisements in the stores were very often at the eye level of our youth and alcoholic products were often located in close proximity to products meant for youth such as soda, sports drinks, teas, and water. In many cases the store clerks lacked the ability to see us at all times which would make stealing a tempting and easy thing for someone to do.

I think the things we witnessed — easy access of alcohol, advertising exposure, safety issues and more — highlights a very important issue in our community. We can’t be so relaxed about the laws in place that are meant to protect us and keep our communities healthy. Our youth are affected by the messages that they see and the lack of consistency can spread the wrong messages. Something needs to be done to better enforce the regulations already in place.

VC Fair -- use of alcohol images/props

Photo taken by a Straight Up volunteers, showing alcohol bottles used in a Fair game played by all ages

Similar to the retailer assessment I did an event assessment at the Ventura County Fair. I was pleasantly surprised to see the alcohol sales strictly regulated. I saw very few alcohol advertisements (almost all were not in the vision of youth), many security personnel monitoring the area, and, encouragingly, I did not see any smokers. This year was the first year that smoking was restricted to designated areas and I am overwhelmed with joy that it was enforced and respected.

At the concert arena, there were numerous advertisements promoting alcohol and drinking was allowed anywhere. However, I felt that the security staff still did a good job at maintaining the rowdiness as well as the safety of the crowd. Things could have easily got out of hand but there wasn’t a moment that I felt unsafe or that security wasn’t on top of things.

Though there are problems and issues that need to be addressed, I saw a lot of encouraging things this summer. Great job, Ventura, County!