When it comes to keeping our community and youth drug free, prevention is key.

Dozens of Palmerton Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts gathered this week at the Carbon Monroe Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission in Lehighton to learn more about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. The Scouts were there as part of Red Ribbon Week, an annual program that calls for drug and alcohol education and awareness.

Taking part in the program were Daisy and Brownie Girl Scout Troop 3127, Cadette Girl Scout Troop 3580, and Cub Scout Pack 209, all of Palmerton.

"Preventing drug and alcohol use is extremely important," said Jamie Drake, a treatment program manager at the Carbon Monroe Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission. "Once people become addicted, it's very difficult for them to stop. It's so important to teach these kids not to start using drugs and alcohol."

Scouts took turns rotating through five activity stations to learn more about drugs and alcohol. Stations taught Scouts the dangers of smoking, complete with examples of how smoking affects the lungs and teeth, and showed the young Scouts how alcohol can impact vision and balance using goggles that simulated drunkenness.

Each Scout took a drug and alcohol pledge to abstain from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. They also shared their future goals and plans, and learned how drugs and alcohol can keep you from achieving your dreams. Scouts shared goals of being Olympic athletes, joining the military, and going to college to become doctors, veterinarians or teachers all dreams that would be put on hold if they used illegal drugs, they were told.

"Prevention needs to be encouraged throughout childhood. Consistent messages need to be given in order to have an impact," said Drake. "Talking to a child once won't make a difference. Hopefully we can get through to these kids, and raise a generation of kids who won't make the choice to start using drugs or alcohol."

After taking part in the night's session, each scout will earn the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Red Ribbon Week patch.

The Red Ribbon Campaign was established in memory of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, who was murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico City in 1985. This nationwide program honors Camarena's battle against illegal drugs and serves as an annual reminder to parents and families to commit to a drug-free life.