CLEVELAND - Prom can be the most memorable night of high school. But along with the dresses and dancing can come something else: underage drinking and teens are finding creative ways to hide alcohol, including through products designed to deceive.
What may look like a stick of deodorant, a hair brush or even a tampon can actually be a secret flask.
The products are available for sale in local stores that are popular with teens and many more are just a mouse click away. Flasks disguised as lotion containers, sunscreen and a smart phone case are all legally for sale online. But, they can be used for illegal activity by teens.
A 2017 survey by Case Western Reserve University found about three in five Cuyahoga County high school students have tried alcohol and around one in five binge drinks.
“The bad decision of using alcohol goes well beyond drunk driving. That bad decision that could affect your life is regarding sex, criminal activities or violence,” said ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County CEO Scott Osiecki.
He said prom season is a perfect time to talk to teens about underage drinking.
“It’s not saying that you're not to have a good time, but it's really important to know that one bad choice that you make, which would be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, can have an effect on your entire life and it can be severe,” Osiecki said.
Bath Township Police and Copley Police teamed up to launch “Hidden in Plain Sight” in 2011. The program educates parents about how to find secret hiding places for drugs and alcohol.
“It's okay, as parents, to really take an interest and look further into your child's activities, whether it's monitoring social media, whether it's looking in their rooms,” said Bath Township Police Chief Vito Sinopoli. “We see the unfortunate tragedies that come from mixing alcohol and drugs, and we want them to learn those lessons and not relive history.”
Copley Police Detective Tom Ballinger gives presentations to parents and said he encourages them to take note of anything out of the ordinary.
“The biggest thing we try to educate parents on is just communicating with their son or daughter,” Ballinger said. “Be involved in their room, get in there, look, and also search their cars. There's a way to do that and come out looking good. Just say you're going to clean the car.”
Osiecki said building trust with your child is important. He also suggested developing a code word or even an emoji that your child can use or text to you they need help getting out of a situation where they feel unsafe or pressured to drink alcohol.
He also said to pay attention to what your children are doing and talk to other parents about whether there will be alcohol at parties.
“It’s okay to look at what they're taking out of the house,” Osiecki said. “And if you think something looks suspicious to you, I would go ahead and ask to see that.”