With few exceptions and for good reason, Georgia law prohibits furnishing to, purchase of, or possession of alcoholic beverages by people under age 21. Little did the woman know the underage male was working with local law enforcement to thwart the distribution of alcohol to underage youth. I am sure the ride to jail in the rear of a police car sent her a profound message about the seriousness of underage drinking.
Underage drinkers obtain alcohol other than waiting for a “buyer” outside a store. Many have fake identification cards and others sneak it from their parents.
The Cobb Alcohol Taskforce (www.cobbat.org) points out a 2010 Georgia Student Health Survey indicating 76 percent of Cobb County 12th-graders say ‘alcohol is easy to get’ and Cobb County students reported higher rates of binge drinking at a friend’s house on the weekend than other students in the state.
Annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die as a direct result of alcohol use. Many people drink alcohol responsibly, but alcohol consumption still has a dark side. Research shows the dangers increase exponentially when the imbiber is underage.
Underage alcohol use has a direct correlation to poor school attendance and poor grades. It also contributes to an increase in social problems, legal problems, stunted growth, suicide, memory loss and the increased use of other drugs. Certainly, it has contributed to the increase in deaths from alcohol poisoning.
“Do you know where your children are?” was a regular public service announcement from the 1960s to the 1980s. Perhaps the question should have been “Do you know what your children are doing?”
The fact that your child is with a friend, known adult, or supposedly at a church event does not mean your child isn’t consuming alcoholic beverages. Talking to a child about underage drinking is a good start, but it is likely that an underage drinker will go to great lengths to hide alcohol use.
More than 85 percent of people under age 21 have consumed alcohol. Teenagers try to balance their emotions and devotion to parents, but their actions show an overwhelming need to be accepted by peers. Illegal alcohol sales and underage drinking parties should be reported. Parents should get to know and communicate with the parents of their children’s friends, and check to make sure their children do not have a fake ID card.
Children who are greeted by a parent when returning home have a reduced chance of hiding alcohol use. No law says parents and children can’t be friends. Friends may be plenty but parents are no more than two. Don’t assume your child refrains from alcohol. Be a parent first and make sure. A life is in the balance.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.