Other Voices: Factors of underage drinking in our county | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Factors of underage drinking in our county

In an effort to reduce substance abuse among Nevada County’s youth, the Law Enforcement Sector of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County is committed to making access to, and availability of, alcohol and other drugs extremely difficult.

The organization has made a commitment to enforce existing laws that make it illegal to sell or otherwise provide alcohol to minors, even if this occurs in the home.

A concern is developing among Nevada County leaders regarding parental and adult acceptance of underage drinking. The California Healthy Kids Survey shows us that 50 percent of Nevada County’s high school youth consumed alcohol within the past 30 days, and 70 percent state that alcohol is easily accessible. Most teens get alcohol from “social” sources: Parents, parents of other teens, older siblings and other relatives and friends.

According to the United Way’s Nevada County Community Needs Assessment, more than half of youth first use alcohol and other illegal drugs before the age of 15. Warren Daniels, executive director of Community Recovery Resources, adds, “The age when drinking starts affects future drinking problems. For each year that the start of drinking is delayed, the risk of later alcohol dependence is reduced by 14 percent.”

A minor decoy operation was performed back in November of 2007 along with the recent minor decoy conducted by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department in partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. This resulted in about one-third of those businesses involved in the operation selling to a minor decoy.

“People who provide alcohol to teens undermine the efforts of parents to protect their kids from alcohol-related injury and also break the law,” says Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster.

To many, alcohol is perceived as a harmless substance in comparison to other drugs. In 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds in America. Nearly a third of the 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in fatal crashes in 2003 had been drinking.

Retailers play an essential role in reducing teen access. They can take steps to make sure that teens can’t buy alcohol from their stores, and they can serve as a source of information to reduce the possibility that alcohol legally sold to an adult will end up in a teenager’s hands.

Responsible retailing practices are essential to preventing illegal alcohol sales. But it takes more than just telling employees not to sell to minors. Responsible retailers need specific policies, backed up by training and accountability, that enable staff to say, “If I sell to you, I’ll lose my job.”

With respect to parents and other adults providing alcohol to minors in private or public settings, many communities have enacted “social hosting” policies that call for fines, and even jail time, for offenders. Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell, a member of the Coalition’s Law Enforcement action group, has said that he will ensure that offenders of laws related to providing alcohol to minors will be fully prosecuted.

For more information on social hosting laws and policies in other communities, and to learn more about similar types of laws governing the provision of alcohol to minors in Nevada County, contact the district attorney’s office or the Coalition for a Drug free Nevada County.

The mission of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County is to reduce substance abuse among youth by addressing factors in the community that increase the risk of substance abuse and by promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.


To learn more about the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County, contact Tasha Senn, program director, at 273-7956 or tasha@drugfreenevadacounty.org.

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