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FMS students get ‘Too Smart to Start’ drinking

Two classes of seventh graders at Farragut Middle School received a four-day training from the Metropolitan Drug Commission Sept. 13-16 called “Too Smart to Start” — an underage drinking prevention program.

Nearly 10.1 million youth, ages 12-20, are underage drinkers and the average age of first use in Knox County is between 10 and 11 years old, statistics indicate.

During the week, students participated in online interactive quizzes, watched videos on the health consequences of alcohol, learned the myths surrounding underage alcohol use and won prizes for each question they answered successfully during a game show.

A new aspect of the program included a “Too Smart to Start Family Guide” for students to complete daily homework assignments with their parents. Activities included role-playing ideas for how to say “no,” practicing conversations, discussing alcoholism within their own family and signing a family contract about the consequences of underage drinking.

Tyra Haag with the Metropolitan Drug Commission said, “Often, the seventh-grader was inclined to give a much harsher punishment than the parent.

“One parent suggested not using any type of electronic device for a month, which these days is a big deal. One student, on himself, said take away all privileges for a year.”

To test the effectiveness of the program, Haag said students were given a pretest on alcohol knowledge the first day and then given a posttest the last day of the program. Haag is still waiting for the test results.

Haag said the program is unique because “Too Smart to Start” was developed by “tweens,” children not yet teens or approaching their teens, to teach youth about alcohol on a level they can understand.

Haag added the Metropolitan Drug Commission was selected as one of 11 sites in the nation to implement the program. The Commission uses the “Too Smart to Start” Web site, literature and resources, developed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention in Washington D.C.

“What’s great is if anyone else would like us to deliver a similar program, we can provide that,” Haag said. “Any school or church youth group, parents, we would love to talk to them as well.”

FMS health teacher Marianne Voiles said she invited the Metropolitan Drug Commission to do the program in her seventh-grade classes because “the more we can hit them with substance abuse programs, the better off they are.”

Voiles added that students hear substance abuse programs each year they are at FMS.

For more information on how to talk to your child about underage drinking, contact the Metropolitan Drug Commission at 865-588-5550 or visit


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