Over the past couple years, Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Anderson County has held meetings with representatives of law enforcement, county commission and city councils from municipalities across Anderson County to identify the local conditions that are contributing to underage drinking. “Because of the many ways minors can obtain alcohol, every community needs an approach that includes our leaders, law enforcement, businesses, schools, and above all parents” says Kim Pouncey. This task force implemented multiple strategies over the last two years including: hosting responsible alcohol sales classes; conducting increased alcohol compliance checks; providing point-of-sale materials to merchants; implementing the use of passive alcohol sensors at school events; and several municipalities passed ordinances to mandate all sellers of alcohol take the responsible alcohol sales classes.
“The Underage Drinking Task Force has formed effective strategies in helping law enforcement and our community partners in reducing underage drinking in Anderson County. These efforts are showing positive results in this most important issue” said Chief Deputy Mark Lucas of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department. Through the support of the task force in implementing these strategies, the following outcomes were achieved to reduce the harms of underage drinking:
• Increased alcohol outlet compliance by almost 23%
• Reduced prevalence of clerks asking for ID but selling alcohol to adolescents anyway by 22%
• Decreased percentage of alcohol-related school discipline events by 78%
• Decreased underage drinking by 43%
On Tuesday, April 5th at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, the task force came together to recognize the remarkable outcomes achieved and to plan for continued initiatives to maintain and further reduce underage drinking in our community. One strategy that was identified was the need to increase the awareness to adults and parents in the community of Tennessee’s Social Host Liability Law which makes it against the law for a host to knowingly allow an underage adult (someone who is younger than 21 years old) to consume alcohol on property that the host owns or controls. Any adult who supplies or allows minors to obtain alcohol or other unlawful substances can be charged with social hosting and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This is especially important to remember this time of year as prom and graduation is right around the corner.
Anderson County Commissioner and Oak Ridge Beer Board Member Theresa Scott said “I think that it’s great to see that the merchants have become more aware of their liabilities when serving beer and alcohol and are ensuring that their employees take asking for identification seriously.” The task force recognizes that merchants have the same goal of wanting to maintain compliance and offers the point of sale materials to merchants including ID checking guides, ID coders, age verification calendars, lighted magnifying glasses, table tents and window clings and can also provide assistance to any merchants who would like to strengthen their store policies regarding alcohol sales. Businesses can contact ASAP at 457-3007 for materials or assistance.