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Our collective responsibility to maintain alcohol- free environments in Stoneham

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

In Massachusetts, cities, towns, and even the state itself, are on the cutting edge when addressing addiction. Whether its being the first state in the nation to ban the sale of vaping products, or creating a standing order for Narcan distribution in pharmacies, The Commonwealth, and in our case, Stoneham, is leading the way in response to substance use.

But despite Massachusetts’s progressive and ambitious action plan for substance abuse prevention, there’s an ongoing public health crisis that is consistently overlooked – Alcohol consumption.

For all of the deserved attention that the opioid crisis receives, alcohol overuse, including underage drinking, accounts for more deaths per year. There are 88,000 deaths related to alcohol in the US, and 4,300 people under the age of 21. Of course, the harms related to alcohol are all too known, including assault, domestic violence, suicide, and traffic accidents.  

These harmful outcomes are significantly linked to the amount of alcohol in the community. The higher the alcohol outlet density a community has, the more drinking occurs, the more likely alcohol-related harms ensue. This is particularly true for underage drinkers, who are also significantly influenced by alcohol advertising and exposure, as well as adult role modeling.

So, what is Stoneham modeling?

With a permitting and use policy that explicitly states no alcohol can be used on the Town Common, Stoneham is already showing its commitment to keeping areas that are youth and family-friendly, substance-free. With bars and restaurants on every side of the common, keeping an open recreation space alcohol free is paramount in fostering an environment where youth won’t be faced with constant exposure to substances.

In a recently conducted Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Stoneham youth are reporting alcohol is the most commonly used substance. Stoneham is also one of the highest in the Mystic Valley Region for binge drinking rates. It is no coincidence, or surprise, that Stoneham also has the highest alcohol outlet density in the Mystic Valley Region per 1000 residents. Increasing density and increasing one-day permits at family-friendly events have a direct correlation to problematic drinking, including underage drinking.

Our community has a collective responsibility to prevent our youth from using harmful substances like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Keeping family-friendly spaces and events alcohol-free shows that Stoneham is prioritizing their commitment to creating environments that are safe, healthy, and substance-free.

- Kayla Vodka, Prevention Director (kvoda@stoneham-ma.gov)

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