Whether you are a policymaker at the local, State, or national level, you can help enact and support policies that prevent the availability of alcohol to young people who are below the minimum drinking age. Strategies include:
- Register kegs. Keg parties can be gathering sites for large groups of underage drinkers. Keg registration links each keg with its purchaser’s ID. Authorities can use the keg ID to trace the person responsible and apply appropriate penalties.
- Train and license Sellers and Servers. Many states and jurisdictions, alcohol licensees and their employees must undergo training as a condition of doing business. This training often includes instruction in the importance of checking IDs, and seller and employee liability when sales are made to minors.
- Implement compliance checks. Compliance checks can show whether sellers and servers of alcohol are obeying minimum age laws. A decoy (an individual who is underage or looks underage) attempts an alcohol purchase using no ID or a false ID. If a sale is made, the police can take appropriate action against the seller.
- Control the number of alcohol outlets. Large numbers of outlets make it easier to buy alcohol and make alcohol a more visible part of the environment. Communities can control the number of alcohol outlets through planning and zoning ordinances and by using conditional use permits.
- Raise the price of alcoholic beverages. Higher prices have been shown to reduce alcohol purchases, particularly those by minors.
- Restrict home delivery. More than half of the Nation’s States allow home delivery of alcohol. However, jurisdictions can forbid or restrict home delivery of alcohol to prevent underage alcohol sales. If communities choose not to ban home deliveries of alcohol, they can require that delivery people record the purchaser’s ID.
One key to the success of an underage drinking prevention program is the participation and support of law enforcement agencies and personnel. Consistent enforcement of existing laws, in conjunction with broad community involvement and support, has been shown to prevent underage drinking.
A good school alcohol policy:
- States that alcohol and alcohol use are not allowed on school grounds, at school-sponsored activities, and while students are representing the school
- Describes the consequences for violating the policy
- Explains how to assess and refer students who use alcohol, and guarantees that self-referral will be treated confidentially and will not be punished
- Pays attention to due process issues in dealing with violators
- Is cautious about imposing suspension and expulsion for violators because students who are away from school, especially if unsupervised, have even more opportunity to drink alcohol
- Offers students accurate information about the addiction and other detrimental effects of alcohol use
Home-Based Rules and Expectations for Behavior
The sanctity of one’s home and family is a long-standing American value. Some may feel that regulating alcohol service in private homes and at parties violates this sanctity. However, when adults recognize the problems and dangers associated with underage drinking and their legal responsibilities to prevent it, they understand the need for these regulations.
Change begins at home. For example, a recent study shows that children whose parents are involved in their lives—holding regular conversations, attending after-school events, listening to their problems—are less likely to drink or smoke.12 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has prepared a pamphlet called Make A Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol. This 24-page guide is geared to parents and guardians of young people ages 10 to 14. It contains a short description of the risks and problems associated with alcohol use among young people as well as actions parents can take to talk with children about these issues. It offers specific suggestions for teaching children how to say no to a drink, hosting alcohol-free parties for teens, and noticing the warning signs of drinking problems in children and adolescents.
Available online in English and Spanish: