Think About It…….. December 04, 2013
Alcohol consumption by people under the age of 21 is an issue of national concern. And of course, has serious social and economic impacts on our communities. However in the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey less than one in 20 Alaskan youth report binge drinking (five or more drinks within a few hours) in the past month, more than 25% of our teens in Alaska public high schools report drinking alcohol in the past month and almost 70% of our youth report drinking alcohol in their lifetime.
As part of the strategy to reduce sales of alcohol to underage persons, the A.B.C. Board utilizes enforcement officers and youthful-looking underage people to conduct compliance checks at retail establishments on a random basis.
During the compliance check the underage buyer attempts to purchase alcohol. All retailers are required to profile buyers and if they look younger than 21 ask for identification. No profiling in Anchorage as they are required to card everyone. Compliance checks in Alaska have been conducted for over a decade in an effort to curb underage sales of alcohol.
However, a nationwide study at the University of Michigan found that youthful-looking buyers were able to purchase alcohol, without questions, at least 50% of the time. In Alaska the most recent compliance rate was 89%.
The A.B.C. Board uses both compliance checks and merchant education to curtail alcohol sales to underage people, but studies have shown that compliance checks, if merchants are forced to make them, are much more effective. However, illegal sales of alcohol to underage persons can be reduced but require a community-wide effort, including raising community awareness and build support for reducing sales to underage persons.
The A.B.C. Board has designated eight regions of the state for compliance checks and reporting and this list includes our Kenai Peninsula Borough. When a liquor licensee is caught selling to an underage kid they are issued an informal notice of violation and given ten days to reply. Who knows why they don’t just automatically lose their liquor license. That would certainly stop their underage sales of alcohol.
If the liquor licensee is caught a second time he or his employee is given a criminal summons or citation. The first conviction is just a misdemeanor with a fine of $10,000 and one year in jail but, get this, Alaskan Judges almost always cut the fine to only $500 with all jail time suspended.
You talk about a little slap on the wrist! No wonder the A.B.C. Board and our judges are failing in their weak-kneed attempt to curtail under-age and teenage drinking in Alaska.
And yet, at the ballot box 2/3 of Alaskans always vote YES for retention of all our judges. One would think it is about time to throw out all our judges and start over. It surely must be time to vote NO on judge retention.
Think About It! John Davis 12-04-13