How has your behavior changed over the course of the pandemic? Many of us shop differently, perhaps buying more things online. Some of us entertain ourselves differently, playing games and watching shows instead of going to a movie theater or attending a live concert. We go into stores less, and spend more time alone or in small groups. 

This fall, the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth will be conducting a community-wide assessment to understand the current issues related to underage drinking, adult misuse, and the related problems.  

Getting a full picture of underage drinking in Maui County is a lot like making a painting. We have to start with a blank canvas, minimizing bias and preconceptions to really listen. We need an idea of what the final product will look like.  We envision a unified and thriving community where people are living resilient, healthy and drug-free lives, therefore different layers of information are needed to give the picture depth. There are different shades and perspectives to incorporate. It takes time and intention to seek out voices that may otherwise be in the background.

Between 2018-2019, our coalition convened and listened to community leaders and stakeholders from multiple sectors, including youth, local government, youth-serving organizations, elders, and law enforcement to learn about the landscape of underage drinking for Maui County. We also gathered statistical data that provided a picture of youth alcohol use. By the time we began our campaign, we learned  four key facts from the community:

1) Maui County youth consume more alcohol at higher rates compared to the statewide average (2):

  • 56% of Maui County high school students ever drank (50% statewide)
  • 31% of Maui County high school students currently drink (25% statewide)

2) Maui County youth drink also  binge drink and begin using alcohol at a younger age  than the state average (2):

  • 16% of Maui County high school students report binge drinking (13% statewide)
  • 19% of Maui County youth had 1st drink before age 13 (17% statewide)

3) We also knew that youth in Maui County get access to alcohol primarily through social sources, as opposed to retail sources (3): 

  • 38% got the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them. 
  • 12% gave someone money to buy it for them 
  • 5% bought it from stores, restaurants, and bars

4) The Coalition administered an anonymous survey of 449 Maui County youth conducted 2018-2019 revealed that drinking most often occurred in private residences. Of the youth who attend house parties, 73.7% report that underage binge drinking occurs. Many have suffered, or know a peer who suffered, severe consequences from underage drinking at house parties, such as fighting, car crashes, alcohol poisoning, and sexual assault.

This data, gathered through informal surveys, focus groups, archival data, and key informant interviews was brought alive by many conversations, listening to people all over the islands. It led us towards an evidence-based policy initiative: the Maui Social Host Liability Ordinance (Maui Code Chapter 9.40) (4), which officially went into law on September 1st of this year. 

As we look forward to our next initiative, this time of reaching out and gathering information is vital to steering our work in a meaningful direction. Our current goal is to conduct interviews and listening sessions with as many community members as possible, especially youth and those in rural areas.  Together, we will paint a vivid picture of underage drinking as it exists in 2021 and will see clearly where we can change policy and the environment to reduce it.  If you are a Maui County resident and you’re interested in providing input on the issue, or volunteering on the project, please reach out to Coalition Director, Andrea Snow at andrea@hiphi.org.  

  1. Pollard MS, Tucker JS, Green HD. Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(9):e2022942. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22942
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl 2020;69(1):1–83.
  3. Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii Health Data Warehouse, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. ‘Alcohol,- usual source, past 30 days, High Schools, County-level.’ Hawaii-IBIS http://ibis.hhdw.org/ibisph-view Accessed on January 20, 2021.
  4. Maui County Code: Chapter 9.40 – SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY