ANDERSON, Ind. —
Most of the time, strangers aren’t willing to help a juvenile buy alcohol, the 17-year-old said. He said it was easier to get alcohol in his former state of California than it is in Anderson.
The average age of first alcohol use in Madison County is 12.8 for boys and 13.2 for girls, according to the HTFMC study. Younger children in the sixth-through-12th-grade sample studied in the report were more likely to get alcohol from their parents or other family members, while older youths had someone else buy it or received it from someone 21 or older.
“This is not just about what parents do or don’t do, but ultimately this is a community problem that we can take some responsibility for,” Sprock said. “I think (the study) would suggest that part of the reason why kids start (drinking) is because it’s accepted in their family and it’s part of what their family does and their family sees it as OK for them to do that.”
Parents often think that when they supervise their children while they drink, it makes it safe or that their children are going to drink regardless of whether they allow it, Sprock said. But allowing minors to drink has long-term consequences, he said, including alcohol dependence and stunted brain development.
“Even if we assume for a moment that they all make it home safely that night, ultimately just by the fact that they started drinking earlier, down the road they are much more likely to be involved in alcohol-related violence, they will binge drink more frequently or in more amounts and they’re much more likely to develop alcohol-related substance-abuse problems.
“It begins a process that I think many don’t recognize.”
If, on the other hand, access to alcohol is made more difficult, fewer minors will drink and the ones who do will drink less, resulting in a reduction of negative consequences in the long run, Sprock said.
Wendy Cook of HTFMC said that organization was going to mount a campaign in the spring urging parents to think twice before offering alcohol to their children and their friends. The campaign, “Parents Who Host Lose the Most,” will use billboards and radio spots to reach parents.
In the meantime, HTFMC has been presenting a social host ordinance to city and town councils around the county that would make it easier for law enforcement officials to cite parents who host underage drinking parties. The ordinance would allow police to treat the incident as a civil matter, giving them the ability to write tickets for offenses.
Cook said that now many underage drinking incidents aren’t prosecuted because of the amount of paperwork involved in the criminal court system.
“Logistically, with the paperwork involved in it, it’s a very long process,” Cook said. “There just wasn’t anything that could really be done that wouldn’t take a ton of paperwork. (The ordinance) would eliminate much of the paperwork. It would make for a more immediate response and the follow-through would be more likely.”