For the past six months, liquor stores across Harris County have been getting busted left and right for selling alcohol to minors. According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), 22 stores were cited for illegal sales of alcohol to minors between May and July. A $6,600 fine was the highest handed out in the past couple of months, but it was not the highest passed out so far this year. A Chipotle was fined $7,200 between January and April, and in the first couple months of the year, $26,000 in fines was handed out to noncompliant establishments.
Despite these heavy fines, stores across Harris County and the state continue to sell alcohol to minors. In some cases, the business has opted to pass the punishment along to the specific employee who made the sale in question. In some cases, it is young employees selling alcohol to their friends. In other cases, employees take cash from the young person for doing them the “favor” of selling them alcohol. In still other cases, employees simply don’t realize they are making a sale to a minor due to lack of attention or mistaking a fake ID for a real one.
Is this a real problem or a rite of passage?
Substance Abuse Is Not a Rite of Passage
However it happens, the use of any illicit substance, including alcohol, by minors is a serious problem. Studies show that the earlier and more frequently a teen uses drugs or alcohol, the more likely it is that they will ultimately develop a lifelong problem with substance use and abuse.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that alcohol is the number one substance of abuse among teens in the United States. By age 15, one-third of teens report having tried alcohol, and by age 18, that number rises to 60 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Teen Alcohol Abuse Impacts Everyone
It is not just the young person who is negatively impacted by underage drinking. Everyone around them, including their friends, families, and their community at large, suffers. Just a few of the ways that teen drinking affects us all are:
- Aggressive behavior: Kids who are under the influence of alcohol are more likely to behave aggressively, potentially harming themselves and others.
- Accidents: Car accidents caused by driving under the influence, using dangerous tools while drunk (e.g., guns or knives), or making risky decisions regarding unsafe sex or physical danger can have devastating repercussions.
- Healthcare costs: Time and money spent treating teens who have burned themselves, contracted an STD, or gotten into car accidents due to drinking add up quickly.
- Legal costs: When law enforcement, the courts, and state-run teen rehab services are necessary to manage teens who are struggling with alcohol abuse, there are fewer resources to address other issues in the community.
- Grief and mourning: Loss of a loved one due to teen alcohol use can destroy families and the community at large. Unnecessary death is always a tragedy, but when it happens to or is caused by a young adult under the influence, it can be especially heartbreaking.
- Lost productivity: Teens who drink heavily are not giving their attention and energy to the projects and activities that will help them to grow into independent, strongminded individuals, hurting not only themselves but the communities that would have benefited from their ideas and personal investment.