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Parents: Say ‘No’ To Underage Drinking

It’s graduation season and summer weekends will be jam-packed with celebrations to honor high school grads. As parents begin to plan for graduation parties, chances are they are purchasing alcohol for the event. While some parents will label coolers containing alcohol ‘adults only,’ other parties might allow everyone to consume alcohol, including underage grads- big mistake.

Even though serving minors alcohol and hosting underage drinking parties is illegal in New York, parents across the state still do it. Whether they hide behind the excuse that teens who drink while supervised at home are “safer,” or they are trying to gain acceptance from their kids, these parents are putting lives at risk and could earn criminal charges in the process.

New York parents with teenagers attending graduation parties this season should be on high alert. Knowing the laws and educating your teens on the dangers of underage drinking will have a significant impact on the choices they make when it comes to experimenting with alcohol. Reporting parents who allow underage drinking may not be the popular thing to do, but it could potentially save your child’s life and the lives of their peers.

Underage Drinking Is Deadly

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)reports that more than  4,300 underage drinkers die every year due to excessive drinking. In 2013, there were over 110,000 emergency room visits for those between the age of 12 to 20 to treat injuries and other health conditions related to alcohol. This age group constitutes more than 11 percent of alcohol consumption in the United States. Shockingly, more than 90 percent of underage drinkers are binge drinking, and some parents are fueling these statistics.

Family and friends are the leading sources of alcohol for today’s youth. According to Responsibility.org, 54 percent of underage drinkers report getting alcohol from their family and friends, and 27 percent of these individuals were parents and guardians.

When kids drink at home, and it’s accepted by their parents, they are far more likely to drink in excessive amounts. Binge drinking leads to negative consequences for teens such as poor health, lack of academic achievements, and decreased cognitive abilities. Underage binge drinking also puts teens at a higher risk for unhealthy behaviors including physical and sexual assault, suicide, homicide, and abuse of other recreational drugs.

The Dangers of Drinking At Home

Parents and family who allow teens to drink at home are not doing them any favors. According to a study published last year in The Lancet, teens who have early exposure to alcohol at home are not protected from the dangers associated with alcohol-related harm(s), particularly alcohol dependency. Researchers found that teens whose parents allowed underage drinking at home were just as likely to suffer from alcoholism and make irresponsible decisions about drinking, including binge drinking and driving under the influence.

The Lancet study followed 1,900 Australian adolescents for six years and concluded that those with no access to alcohol were less likely to develop binge drinking habits and experience alcohol-related harms. This study is the first that encompasses an extended period of observation and illustrates the real consequences of parents who allow teens access to alcohol. Previous studies concluded that parental supply of alcohol did not increase the risk of children binge drinking and lowered a minor’s risk of drinking overall compared to teens who got their alcohol from other sources. The new study, however, proved this conclusion incorrect and shows parents are putting their kids in harm’s way by exhibiting this behavior

The Most Common Excuses Parents Use

Most parents who allow their teens to drink believe they are protecting them from greater harm. Some of the most common reasons parents allow underage drinking in their home include:

  • “They are safer at home” Parents who want to prevent their children from drinking and driving may allow them to drink at home without realizing they are risking their health. Allowing teens to drink without the responsibility of having to get home can lead to binge drinking and long-term health consequences such as liver damage, heart condition, stroke, brain damage, cancer, and death.
  • “At least they aren’t driving”Again, you may be preventing your teen from drinking and driving, but what about their friends? At a party where everyone is drinking and coming and going, it is difficult to monitor who is sober or keep track of who is getting into their cars.
  • “It’s just a few sips” The Lancet study focused on parents who allowed their teens a few sips of alcohol and those who allowed full glasses of wine or beer and found little difference in the future effects. Teens who were given any amount of alcohol by their parents were still more likely to fall into poor drinking habits than those whose parents prohibited drinking in the home.
  • “They are going to do it anyway.”Parents with the attitude that their teens are going to drink, regardless of whether or not they allow it, are setting their children up for issues. Instead of making it difficult to drink, these parents are giving in and normalizing the behavior of underage drinking which can quickly get out of control.
  • “At college, it will be everywhere.” The notion that parents are preparing their teens for the pressure of drinking in college is one of the most popular excuses for providing alcohol to new graduates. College has indeed gained a reputation for wild drinking parties, but this is not a positive trend. Parents should be encouraging their teens to say ‘no’ to alcohol to better focus on their studies.
  • “I’m teaching my teen how to drink safely.”There is no safe way to drink as a teen. Even if a minor only has a few drinks on occasion, and does not participate in binge drinking, alcohol is harmful to the development of the teenage brain. By teaching your teen it is acceptable to drink, you are increasing the chance of them passing the message along to their friends and putting more lives in danger.
  • “It’s not a big deal.”Addiction, health conditions, injuries, and death are a big deal and all consequences of underage drinking.

Serving Minors Is Against The Law

It’s not just dangerous to supply teens with alcohol; it’s illegal. The National Minimum Legal Drinking Law prohibits any person under the age of 21 from drinking alcohol and makes it illegal for non-minors to provide alcohol to underage drinkers. Unfortunately, there are more than a few exceptions to these laws.

A common exception for providing alcohol to minors for a large portion of the country, aside from religious activities, educational purposes, or law enforcement purposes, is parental, guardian, or spousal consent. According to New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law: “A person under the age of twenty-one years may possess any alcoholic beverage with intent to consume if the alcoholic beverage is given … to the person under twenty-one years of age by that person’s parent or guardian.”

Thankfully, not all counties in the state accept these exemptions and have enacted additional social hosting laws to make it illegal for parents to provide alcohol to their children, even in their own home. For residents of Nassau County, Suffolk County, and New York City, these are the laws parents need to be aware of:

Nassau County

According to the Nassau County’s Social Host Law : “It shall be unlawful for any person over the age of eighteen who owns, rents, or otherwise controls a private residence, to knowingly allow the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by any minor on such premises or to fail to take reasonable corrective action upon learning of the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by any minor on such premises.” Penalties for parents, guardians, or other adults violating the law include:

  • First Offense: $250 fine
  • Second Offense: $500 fine
  • Third Offense: $1,000 fine or term of imprisonment not to exceed one year

Suffolk County

According to the Suffolk County’s Social Host Law: “Anyone who is over the age of 18; and owns, rents, or otherwise controls a private residence; or a permanent or temporary domicile, including a home, apartment, condominium, cooperative unit, trailer home, recreational vehicle, mobile home, overnight accommodations at a hotel, motel, campsite or short‐term rental property; or other dwelling unit of any kind, including yards and open areas adjacent to these locations knowingly allows the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by any minor on such premises; or fails to take reasonable corrective action up can be held legally responsible.” Penalties for parents, guardians, or other adults violating the law include:

  • First Offense: Fine not to exceed $500
  • Second and Subsequent Offenses: Misdemeanor and a fine up to $1,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.

New York City

New York City does not currently have social hosting laws prohibiting parents from serving their own children alcohol at their private residence. However, parents are not allowed to serve other minors. According to New York’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law §65, “No person shall sell, deliver or give away or cause or permit or procure to be sold, delivered or given away any alcoholic beverages to any person, actually or apparently, under the age of twenty-one years.” Penalties for parents, guardians, or other adults violating the law include:

  • $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail
  • Civil liability of property damage, physical injury or death resulting in the minor’s alcohol consumption.

Parents – Your Teens Are Watching

Parents may not think their teens watch or care what they are doing, but they do. Responsibility.org reports parents to have the most influence on whether or not their child will drink alcohol, more so than friends, teachers, siblings, advertising/television, and other marketing techniques. Parents set the first example for their children when it comes to alcohol. If parents choose not to use drugs and alcohol in the home, chances are, children will mimic the behavior.

According to CRC Health, these are the factors parents should consider to reduce their teen’s risk of binge drinking and other alcohol-related harms.

  • Environment over genetics: Genetics may play a part in addictive behaviors, but studies show a teen’s home environment has more of an impact on their likeliness to binge drink and make poor decisions regarding alcohol.
  • Personal drinking habits: If you drink heavily around your teens, they will think more casually about binge drinking than other kids who see their parents drink responsibly. If you are a daily drinker, your teens will see it as normal, increasing their chances of future alcohol-related issues.
  • Lowering exposure in teen years: Teens are incredibly susceptible to influence. Parents who quit drinking before their children hit the teen years lower their risk of drug and alcohol abuse significantly.
  • Attitudes about drinking: A parent’s attitude about drinking can shape the future of their teen’s drinking habits. If a teen believes their parents are against underage drinking and drug use, they are less likely to experiment, especially in excess.

The bottom line is alcohol is dangerous for minors. Keep an open line of communication with your teenagers and be willing to answer questions about underage drinking. Getting your teen to confide in you about drinking is important, so try not to scare them away from keeping you informed.

Familiarize yourself with the graduation parties that your teens will be attending and the rules about alcohol before allowing them to attend. If you hear of parents who are supplying or supporting underage drinking in their homes, call the authorities. Putting the lives of minors at risk is not acceptable, and you could save lives by speaking up.

Sources:

“Parents Who Drink Influence Their Teens to do the Same Thing.” CRC Health. (Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/alcohol-substance-abuse-treatment-programs/alcoholic_rehab/substance-abuse-articles/parents-drink-influence-teens/

Mattick, Richard P. “Association of parental supply of alcohol with adolescent drinking, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol use disorder symptoms: a prospective cohort study.” The Lancet.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(17)30240-2/fulltext?elsca1=tlpr#articleInformation

“Fact Sheets- Underage Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

Alcohol Beverage Control Law, Section 65. The New York State Senate.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/ABC/65

“Social Host Law.” Nassau County.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1652/Social-Host-Law?bidId=

“Social Host Law.” Suffolk County.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) http://www.smithtownny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/64

“Is It Ever Legal for Minors to Consumer Alcohol.” Alcohol.org.(Retrieved June 17, 2019)https://www.alcohol.org/laws/underage-drinking/

“New York Consolidated Laws, Alcoholic Beverage Control Law – ABC § 65-c. Unlawful possession of an alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume by persons under the age of twenty-one years.” FindLaw.(Retrieved June 17, 2019) https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/alcoholic-beverage-control-law/abc-sect-65-c.html