I almost hesitate to write this, as it’s almost a how to manual for kids looking to buy alcohol, but as follows is very telling of our society and explains in part how easy it is for our kids to buy alcohol.
A University of Minnesota study looked at underage alcohol buying, and wanted to know just how easy it was for underage drinkers to secure alcohol by propositioning buyers about to enter a liquor store. The University researchers had under age looking subjects approach people about to enter a liquor store, and these subjects explained that they had forgotten their I.D. and asked the shopper to buy them a 6 pack of beer.
Researchers found that only 8% of the population when approached in this way would buy the beer for the subject, but when examining specific sub groups, it was found that males who appeared to be between the ages of 21 and 30, when approached had a 19% likelihood of buying the beer.
When almost one in five young men are willing to buy alcohol for underage strangers, it’s not surprising that our children seem to have little difficulty getting the alcohol they want.
So what’s to be done?
In addition to educating the public about the greater risks to teenagers who start drinking earlier, I think that we need to tackle this problem as an enforcement issue. It is currently against the law to buy alcohol for minors, but if one in five are willing to do it for a complete stranger outside of a liquor store, obviously the threat of penalty is no deterrent to the behavior.
If police actively enforced this illegal activity, and published both the consequences of this crime as well as publicized successful "sting" operations on adults willing to do it, I believe that our kids would be a lot safer from easy access to alcohol. It’s not the ultimate solution, but by making access more difficult, you might just save a few lives from dependency, and you’ll probably save a lot of young lives from the ultimate consequences of drunken driving.
If you’re approached…don’t buy it for them, you’re not doing them a favor by buying them beer, you’re doing them a favor by not. To law enforcement…please take this seriously, and please punish offenders and make the consequences well known. It may be perceived as a relatively innocuous crime, but in reality it’s anything but harmless.