DFC Outreach Coordinator
Churchill Community Coalition
Despite laws regarding drinking age, many of our youth engage in the use of alcohol. This is supported by a general consensus that alcohol is easily accessible, socially accepted, advertised, glamorized, and not strictly enforced in our community. Consequences of underage drinking are severe and community-wide. Community efforts to restrict access and enforce possession laws have proven to reduce youth alcohol use.
Minors can obtain alcohol from adults, at local markets “paying double the price” in cash, stealing or using fake identification effortlessly obtained from family, friends or Internet purchase. A frightening 79 percent of locals are not always asked to show ID when purchasing alcohol. Focus groups indicate 85 percent of high school students agree adults will buy them alcohol at local liquor stores. Ease of access contributes to 43 percent of our 11th grade students currently using alcohol and a 45 percent peer acceptance rate. By the time a student becomes a senior, over half of their closest friends will use alcohol and 67 percent of peer parties will admittedly serve alcohol.
The reported low perceived risk associated with providing alcohol to minors contributes to under-age drinking problems. Many adults view drinking alcohol as a fairly typical activity for youth and young adults. In fact, this action contributes to a community increase in drunk driving, the leading cause of death for 15-to-20-year-olds; teens engaging in unplanned sexual activity; a teen’s risk of sexual assault; injuries resulting from reckless behaviors which include fires, burns and drowning deaths; aggressive behavior; and suicide, the third leading cause of death among 14-to-25-year-olds.
Underage drinking, as a teen’s brain is still developing, increases the risk of permanent brain damage. Teens drinking during critical brain development are four times as likely to become alcoholics as those who start after 21.
The sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 is illegal. In a six month period last year, local law enforcement reported 28 minor in consumption (MIC) driving under the influence arrests as well as 13 MIC no-traffic related arrests. Five MIC arrests were reported on school property. Unfortunately, some MIC arrests are never seen in court, adding to the perception of low risk. An adult, family member, or even another teen who provides alcohol to a person under 21 can be charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” and, if convicted, can serve jail time and a pay $1,000 in fines. Minors using fake identification are committing a class D felony which can result in a seven year prison sentence. If convicted, a teen’s chance of future employment, scholarship or college financial aid will be permanently damaged.
Eighty percent of local adults agree it’s relatively easy for teens to obtain alcoholic beverages and 73 percent believe it is unlikely local police will break up under-age drinking parties. We, as a community, can change these perceptions. We can hold accountable those contributing to the delinquency of a minor. We can enforce how alcohol is promoted, sold and consumed. A shared responsibility will promote positive youth alcohol choices and allow our community to thrive.
Visit the Churchill Community Coalition website, www.churchillcoalition.com, for data sources and additional information.