ABSECON — Join Together Atlantic County, a countywide substance misuse prevention coalition, held an underage drinking PSA contest for sixth- through eighth-graders in Atlantic County. The theme of the contest was a message to parents from youth about the dangers of underage drinking or providing alcohol to those under 21.

One winner has been selected, first place goes to Emma Mattson, an eighth grader from Galloway Township Middle School. Her submission will be turned into a billboard and she also received a gift card. JTAC would like to thank all middle school students who participated in the contest and the powerful messages they created about underage drinking.

The younger a person starts drinking, the more likely he or she is to have alcohol problems later in life. Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The brain is still forming in teenagers, and teen drinking can cause permanent brain damage. Most young people do not drink alcohol. It is estimated that in 2018 only 9% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current alcohol users, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Providing alcohol to those under 21 is illegal and can result in six months in the county jail, up to a $1,000 fine, and a permanent criminal charge on your record if convicted.

By participating in this contest, youth have helped to support Join Together Atlantic County in their mission: “to prevent, reduce and/or delay substance use among youth of Atlantic County in a long term and sustainable manner.” Join Together Atlantic County is located at 626 N. Shore Road.

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