Send kids the right message about drinking

brian smithThis was a column written by Brian Smith and published in the Kanabec County Times on September 19th, 2013. Click here to view the original column.

Another summer is gone, a new school year has started and our kids are back to school.  With that comes lots of new activities both during and after school and opportunities for friends to get together.

Oftentimes these get-togethers turn into parties that include the consumption of alcohol-content beverages and, unfortunately, adult family members are not only aware of this activity, but they may help facilitate it. Not only is this illegal, it is sending the exact opposite message to our children that we should be sending.

Procuring alcohol for a minor is a crime that is defined and prohibited by MN State Statute. Most, if not all, adults are well aware of this statute. Lesser known is the Social Host Ordinance that was passed in Mora and Kanabec County in 2010.

The ordinance makes it a misdemeanor violation for any person(s) to host, allow or have control over an event or gathering, or intentionally aid, hire, advise, counsel, or conspire with or otherwise procure another to host, allow or have control over an event or gathering, at any residence, premises, or on any other private or public property, where alcohol or alcoholic beverages are present, when the person knows, has reason to know, or acts in reckless disregard of knowledge that any underage person will or does consume any alcohol or alcoholic beverage, or possess any alcohol or alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it, and the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent possession or consumption by the underage person(s).

A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $1000 in fines. Typical first time offenders have received 30 days and a $300 fine although this can vary depending on circumstances.

Of bigger concern is the message we send to our children. I have heard the excuse that “they are going to drink somewhere so at least I can keep them safe if they are here.” That may sound like good sense until you look at the underlying messages that you just sent that says you are old enough and responsible enough to drink alcohol when you want to.

This means they will do just that, and the next time may not be under your supervision.

There has been overwhelming research done that shows the damage that alcohol does to the young, undeveloped brain of a teen that we should be sending the message that says “you are not old enough to drink and if I find out that you have there will be discipline.” That is the message that will keep our kids safer.

Brian Smith, Kanabec County Chief Deputy, is the Chair of the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County (SACK). SACK is administered by Kanabec County Public Health. For more information about the coalition visit www.sackcoalition.org.

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