The Pacific Institute for Research estimates that underage drinking costs South Carolina almost $1.2 billion each year. A law enforcement blitz aimed at alcohol consumption by youth underway this week through this weekend has involved authorities from many local communities.
The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services is helping with the effort, attempting to limit access to alcohol by young people under age 21. Prevention Consultant Michelle Nienhius(NEEN-hise) says the idea is to promote a safe prom season and end to the school year.
She says the goal of the week is to have no traffic fatalities in the state this spring connected to underaged drinking. The campaign, called “Out of Their Hands,” will involve compliance checks of stores and bars to make sure they’re checking the ages of youth. Law enforcement will be conducting numerous traffic check points, and talking to parents about how to have safe parties. And addiction prevention agencies will make presentations to local groups.
From 2006 to 2008, 158 South Carolinians died in alcohol-related traffic crashes involving an underage driver who had been drinking. Many more were injured. Nationally, more than 5,000 young people die each year after becoming victims in motor vehicle crashes, violent crimes, or alcohol poisoning.
Nienhius says most people would be surprised by a study done last year.
(Nienhius on underage drinking MP3 1:08)
Nienhius on underage drinking
Nienhius says a survey indicated that nearly half of all 8th-graders in South Carolina who drink prefer liquor as their drink of choice. That was followed by sweet, colorful beverages like alcoholic lemonade. Beer came in third place, the favorite of only 21 percent of young drinkers.
Nienhius says the marketing behind alcoholic beverages appeals to youth. Nienhius says she was amazed to see that one product looks exactly like a perfume bottle.