SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ – Did you know that most every person with a substance use disorder began with drinking alcohol underage? Most people living with the disease of addiction affirm that they first drank alcohol underage before progressing to the use of other illegal drugs. Many times, underage young people acquire alcohol from older siblings, friends and other adults who, for whatever reason, may not understand the adolescent brain and how addiction can take hold at this dynamically developmental stage of life. Kids who drink before the legal age of 21 are much more prone to problems with alcohol (and other drugs) than those who wait until they are older to drink. There are also, of course, serious legal ramifications that can occur for both the underage drinker as well as the person providing the alcohol.
As the holidays approach, The Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, a program of The Center for Prevention and Counseling, engage youth from throughout Sussex County to proactively spread awareness about preventing underage drinking and the importance of the safest serving of alcohol. On Monday, December 14th more than 1500 brightly colored stickers were placed on different alcohol packages throughout liquor stores in Sussex County by youth participating in several “Sticker Shock” events. Colorful and informative stickers, created to state the penalties and consequences of purchasing alcohol for minors, are used in these Sticker Shock events which spread education and engage youth and adults to understand the dangers of underage drinking. The Center is so very appreciative for the cooperation of the many local liquor stores in our area and encourage patrons to thank the staff or management of the various liquor stores wherever you see these bright stickers displayed.
In New Jersey and more specifically, in every Sussex County municipality, there exists a “Social Host Liability” law which imposes civil penalties on social hosts who serve alcohol to minors who subsequently are involved in incidents causing death or injury. It is a criminal offense in the state of New Jersey (2C:33-17b) to make your home or property available for the purpose of allowing minors a place to consume alcohol and it is a criminal offense in the state of New Jersey (2C:33-17a) to serve alcohol to anyone who is under the legal age of 21. Important to realize is that no amount of home insurance coverage will protect a homeowner when they are facing these potential criminal penalties.
Besides adults being responsible, for teenagers and their friends, almost every Sussex County municipality has a local “Underage Drinking Ordinance” or “Private Property Ordinance” which penalizes youth with a fine of $250 for a first offense and $350 for subsequent offenses when found drinking alcohol underage. In addition, driving privileges can be suspended (or postponed for 6 months for those who have not received their license yet). In the year 2000, New Jersey legislated this “Underage Drinking Ordinance” (NJ statute C. 40:48 -1.2 P.L 2000, Chapter 33), empowering individual municipalities to “enact an ordinance making it unlawful for any person under the legal age who, without legal authority, knowingly possesses or knowingly consumes an alcoholic beverage on private property.” While many of the ordinances that were enacted are very similar to the NJ statute, some towns have chosen to enact altered versions of the ordinance. To read your particular municipality‘s legislation, you can visit www.drugfreenj.org/law_database/#Sussex_County .
We remind and encourage community members to be part of the solution to underage drinking. Secure and monitor alcohol in your home and remember the campaign message promoted to everyone, “Parents Who Host Lose the Most- Don’t be a party to teenage drinking. It’s Against the Law.” Special thanks go out to The Liquor Factory in Hopatcong, Shoprite Liquors in Byram, The George Inn, Vernon Inn, Highland General Store and other participating establishments for supporting the mission of The Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities.
To learn more about the coalition or to become involved in youth alcohol and other drug prevention initiatives in Sussex County, contact Coalition Coordinator, Annmarie Shafer at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (973)383-4787 ext. 240 and/or visit www.parentadvicenj.org for more information.