Turnout low for forum on underage drinking

KOLOA — David Cooper has experience with underage drinking.

“It was a large part of my life, since I was 9 years old,” he said. “Alcohol was what started my addiction.”

Drinking underage led to other destructive habits, like doing ice, Cooper said.

“Now I do nothing, except smoke cigarettes,” he said.

Cooper was one of about 10 people who attended a meeting Thursday, which was aimed to find ways to prevent underage drinking on the Garden Isle.

“I happened to hear about it, and I wanted to see what it was about,” Cooper said.

The meeting was held at the Koloa Neighborhood Center and hosted by Life’s Choices Kauai.

“Alcohol is the number one drug for children; it’s accessible,” said Theresa Koki, coordinator of Life’s Choices Kauai.

Maile Murray, a prevention coordinator and certified substance abuse counselor, gave a presentation based on surveys, which polled Kauai keiki.

According to the surveys, 43.2 percent of underage drinkers said they got the liquor from an adult. Another 25 percent said they gave adults money to buy the alcohol.

When it comes to underage drinking, keiki tend to get their first taste of alcohol in their sophomore year of high school, Murray said.

“Kids want to fit in and be included,” she said.

During the meeting, the audience and officials from Life’s Choices Kauai discussed what has become the social norm of parents allowing their children to drink at home.

“There needs to be a change because parents will teacher their kids that it’s normal to drink, and that kid with teach their children it’s OK,” Cooper said.

Lisa Arin suggested filming public service announcements showing the dangers of underage drinking.

“We have these powerful meth PSAs. But there’s more acceptance of alcohol because it’s legal and people use it,” she said.

The meeting is one in a series being hosted around the island.

The meetings will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the following locations:

w Monday: Waimea Neighborhood Center

w Thursday: Hale Halawai, Hanalei Community Center

w Friday: Lihue Neighborhood Center

Cooper hopes more people will attend them.

“I want people to make an attempt to see what’s going on in the community,” he said.

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