Compliance checks help deter underage drinking

In response to recent articles in the Stillwater Gazette regarding alcohol compliance check failures by eight Stillwater establishments, members of the CONNECT Chemical Health Action Collaborative of Washington County want to thank the Stillwater Police Department for conducting the compliance checks and the Gazette for publishing the results.
The work of law enforcement with compliance checks and subsequent media coverage is greatly appreciated as it fits with a comprehensive approach to prevent substance abuse problems, particularly underage drinking. Compliance checks are effective for deterring underage alcohol consumption and heightening awareness of servers and establishment owners/operators of the importance of not serving to youth under age 21. Server training provides employees and owners with tools to help them do their job better.
As the Gazette reported, unlike prior compliance check results, the number of failures this time was unusually high. Whatever the reason for these failures, be it new staff or inaccurate ID reading, it shows the importance of continuing to do compliance checks as a reminder of the importance of not serving those under-age.
There are many reasons for keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors. Most people have heard the reasons, but they are worth repeating as a reminder. Recent brain research indicates that one of the last areas of the brain to develop is the area where careful judgment including thinking through consequences takes place, and that this area is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. This explains some of the higher risk behavior taken by teenagers and those in their early 20s.
Alcohol use further inhibits judgment leading to greater likelihood of engaging in high risk behavior of many types, including risky sexual activity, vandalism, violence, and impaired driving to name a few. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that tens of thousands of young lives have been saved by changing the age of legal alcohol use from 19 to 21. In fact, alcohol use is frequently involved in the three most common causes of death among youth ages 15 to 24: car crashes, homicides and suicides.
Clearly, efforts to prevent under-age alcohol use are not insignificant or arbitrary. The CONNECT Collaborative, the Stillwater Police Department, the Gazette reporting this story as well as other partners, engage in these prevention activities because they care about young people and want to keep them safe and healthy.

Mary Planten-Krell, chairwoman
CONNECT Collaborative

Editor’s Note: Mary Planten-Krell is Executive Director of the Youth Service Bureau.

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