Don’t let underage drinking ruin your prom
By: Randy Cole
Many teens dream of their high school years’ being full of traditional and memorable events. Few are as eagerly anticipated as Prom night and its associated rituals. Unfortunately many teens, and parents, feel that including alcohol with these events is an acceptable rite of passage. Underage drinking, by far, continues to be the most common risky behavior challenging youth today. Alcohol remains the number one drug of choice for teens statewide with 65% of high school students consuming alcohol at some point during their high school years.
Even though a lower percentage of youth are drinking today than in years past, those that are consuming alcohol, are doing so at an alarming rate. In fact, the latest research shows that many youth are participating in the growing epidemic of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4-5 drinks during one event causing the BAC level to rise to dangerous levels. Those that participate in this activity are much more likely to be involved in acts of violence, unwanted sexual activities, and more likely to drive a vehicle and be involved in a crash. Surprisingly to many, females participate in binge drinking at a higher rate than their male counterparts, leaving them particularly vulnerable.
In order to minimize the potential dangers and consequences involved with underage drinking during the prom season, Circle Park Behavioral Health Services and the Florence County Coalition for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, along with local law enforcement agencies have joined forces to support the “Don’t Let Underage Drinking Ruin Your Prom” Campaign. This campaign emphasizes that it is illegal if you are under the age of 21 to purchase, possess or consume alcoholic beverages.
Prom night parties and activities tend to provide an opportunity for many high school students to participate in this dangerous activity. In an effort to address and minimize these potential incidences in our community, the 12th Judicial Circuit Alcohol Enforcement Team (AET), a multi-jurisdictional team of various agencies throughout Florence and Marion Counties, will be utilizing a series of enforcement activities during prom nights that may include:
• Source Investigations – AET members will be utilizing their resources to identify the source of alcohol that is being possessed or consumed by underage youth at prom activities. Those found to be providing alcohol to minors will be charged and prosecuted.
• Party Patrols – AET members will be patrolling neighborhoods, rural areas, bonfire sites, etc. where before and after prom parties may be taking place.
• Parking Lot Patrols – AET members will patrol parking lots of local establishments and locations where prom activities may be occurring to ensure that underage alcohol possession and consumption is not taking place.
• Restaurant Walk-Throughs – AET members will be visible making walk throughs at local restaurants popular with prom goers and interacting with them to ensure that they understand the importance of having an alcohol free prom night.
• Compliance Checks – AET members will be checking local establishments to ensure that alcohol is not making it in to the hands of underage consumers.
Underage youth also need to be aware of the constructive possession statute in which anyone under the age of 21 can receive a citation or be arrested for possessing alcohol products, having them in their car or being at a party or event where underage drinking is taking place, EVEN if they are not drinking themselves.
We hope that all youth and parents participating in this year’s prom events will work together to make smart, legal and healthy choices to ensure that this year’s prom events in our community are fun, safe and alcohol free.