North Carolina state law is clear: It is a crime to sell alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21. Not only that, it is a crime for anyone under 21 to purchase liquor. Why is it, then, that 13 percent of the state’s youth told researchers they were able to buy liquor over the counter over the past 30 days?
The answers were part of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and that particular answer ranked the state third among all states and the District of Columbia for being an easy place for kids to buy booze or beer. We were not far off the state with the highest mark — 15 percent — but we were much higher than the national average of 8.7 percent. The survey data covered the years 2008 to 2010, so there is a chance that things have changed over the past two years.
Maybe not at the state level, though. This year’s survey showed that about 23 percent of North Carolina teens consumed alcohol over the past 30 days. According to the state transportation department, the number was 14.3 percent in 2009.
Nationally, more than 26 percent of kids age 12 to 20 admitted to drinking alcohol during the past 30 days. The statistics didn’t change much in the past three years — 25.1 percent last year, 26.2 percent the year before — but there has been progress since 2002’s 28.8 percent.
Just as the law is clear, so are health and safety studies: Underage drinking is dangerous. As one federal official said, drinking should not be a normal part of growing up. The risks cover the spectrum from poor academic performance to death.
The question for policymakers and law enforcement, though, is whether we should be satisfied with the snail-like pace of change.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, “1 in 4 in U.S. Starts Drinking Before Turning 21: Report,” Nov. 26, 2012
Our firm represents North Carolina teens who have been arrested or charged with underage drinking. If you are interested in learning more about our Raleigh-based practice, please visit our website.