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Underage drinking during the holidays

December 12, 2012
The Daily News

The holiday season is an important time in the lives of children, and teen-agers.

For teens, this can also be a time of great regret if the wrong choices are made.

Teens and adults face harsh penalties if underage drinking is a part of holiday season activities.

The legal consequences of underage drinking can cause financial hardship, loss of employment and strained family and social relationships.

Not only can a minor be charged with a minor in possession, other minors who furnish alcohol to minors and adults that allow them to drink at their residence or on their property can also be charged,

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission urges parents/guardians who will be hosting holiday parties to think and be safe this season.

With all the social activities that accompany the holiday season it is particularly important to closely check the identification of anyone who is purchasing or consuming alcohol.

With older siblings home from college or visiting family get-togethers it is tempting for a younger person to try and use someone else's ID, or to ask an of-age friend or family member to purchase alcohol on their behalf.

To curb the dangers associated with underage and excessive drinking the Michigan Liquor Control Commission offers retailers the following tips:

- The only way to ensure a person is over 21 is to check their ID. The use of false ID is a serious problem for retail licensees and their employees. Minors attempting to purchase alcoholic beverages sometimes use altered, counterfeit, or someone else's ID. You may be able to deter the use of false ID by informing minors that an attempt to purchase liquor by using false ID is a misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment up to 93 days and/or a fine of up to $100.

- Examine the ID closely. Alterations in driver licenses or ID cards can often be detected with a flashlight. Smudges, alterations and misalignments of seals is apparent and cards issued after June 1987 also have a watermark style coating that is high gloss and more difficult to alter. Can the person answer questions based on the details of the ID, such as address or the birth date? What's the correct spelling of your middle name? What street address is shown on your ID? What's your zip code for the address shown?

- If an "Under 21" applicant obtains a new or duplicate license six months in advance of his/her 21st birthday, the license will have the "Under 21" designation - all ages should be verified by checking the date of birth. A "D" at the end of the number in the lower right corner indicates that the license or ID card is a duplicate.

- Make sure the photo, height and eye color match the person in front of you, if any do not match ask for a second piece of ID. People with fake ID's rarely carry back-up identification.

"We want retailers to know that if they have any doubt about the validity of someone's ID or any doubt about the person's age they have the right to refuse to serve or sell alcohol to them. The loss of one legitimate sale is significantly less than the cost of a liquor violation both in the short term and long term operation of your business," said Andy Deloney, Chairman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

When addressing the issue of hosting holiday parties and underage drinking, one of the most compelling reasons for not providing alcohol to underage youth or allowing underage drinking events to occur on property, outside of the risks of alcohol-related injuries and/or death, is liability (both civil and criminal).

The International Institute for Alcohol Awareness offers the following tips for hosting holiday events where there may be underage youth:

- Monitor alcohol use in your home.

- If you keep alcohol in your home, keep track of the supply. Do not keep alcohol in an accessible place.

- Never serve alcohol to underage youth.

- Connect with other parents and caregivers. Getting to know other parents and guardians can help you keep closer touch on what's going in your child's life. Friendly relations can make it easier for you to call the parent/caregiver of a teen who is having a party to be sure that a responsible adult will be present and that alcohol will not be available.

- Keep track of your child's activities. Be aware of your teen's plans and whereabouts. Generally, your child will be more open to your supervision if he or she feels you are keeping tabs because you care, not because you distrust him or her.

- Develop family rules about teen drinking. When parents/caregivers establish clear "no alcohol" rules and expectations, their children are less likely to begin drinking.

- Set a good example. Parents and guardians are important role models for their children. If you use alcohol, set a good example and drink responsibly.

- Don't support underage drinking. Your attitudes and behavior toward underage drinking also influence your child. Avoid making jokes about underage drinking or drunkenness, or otherwise showing acceptance of underage alcohol use.

- Never serve alcohol to your child's underage friends. Underage drinking is illegal.

- Help your child build healthy friendships. If your child's friends use alcohol, your child is more likely to drink, too.

- Try to encourage your child to develop friendships with kids who do not drink and who are otherwise healthy influences on your child. A good first step is to simply get to know your child's friends better. You can then invite the kids you feel good about to family get-togethers and outings and find other ways to encourage your child to spend time with those kids.

- Encourage healthy alternatives to alcohol. One reason kids drink is out of boredom. Therefore, it makes sense to encourage your child to participate in supervised after-school and weekend activities that are challenging and fun. Studies indicate that the availability of enjoyable, alcohol-free activities is a big reason for deciding not to use alcohol.



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