Hosting Underage Drinking Has Serious Consequences

National Campaign Has Local Impact

A campaign developed by the Drug Free Action Alliance, “Parents Who Host, Lose The Most” is designed to encourage everyone, especially parents, to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is unhealthy, unsafe, and unacceptable.

In Wisconsin, the Parents Who Host, Lose The Most campaign takes place annually from April through June, covering the prom and graduation seasons for high school students. Brought to the Marshfield community by the Marshfield Area Coalition for Youth (MACY), the campaign is a partnership between MACY and the Marshfield Police and Marshfield Fire & Rescue Departments.

“We try to focus around this time of year, because there’s prom and graduation and those are the more celebrated rites of passage for kids,” said Police Chief Rick Gramza. “It’s another educational opportunity to reach out and educate adults that if you contribute to hosting an underage drinking party, there are some pretty hefty consequences with that.”

In a culture where rites of passage such as graduation are celebrated with alcohol, it can be challenging to change public views.

“Wisconsin has a reputation for being an alcohol-consuming heavy-drinking state. That didn’t happen overnight and that culture of drinking isn’t going to be changed overnight, but this is just one step of partnership with the kids to problem solve toward a solution,” said Gramza.

Per the City’s Social Hosting Ordinance (Sec. 10-43), “no person may procure for, sell, dispense or give away any alcoholic beverage to any underage person not accompanied by his or her parent, guardian or spouse who has not attained the legal drinking age.”

Additionally, “No adult may knowingly permit, host, or fail to take action to prevent the illegal consumption or possession of alcoholic beverage by an underage person on premises owned by the adult or under the adult’s control (Sec. 10-43).”

According to the ordinance, a person who commits a violation may be fined up to $500

Police Department representatives

plus court costs. Repeat violators receive greater fines- up to $5,000 plus court costs if the person has committed 3 or more previous violations within 30 months of the current violation (Sec. 10-43).

Though the fines alone are significant, there are even greater costs to hosting an underage drinking party. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS), alcohol is a factor in the deaths of more than 4,300 youth and young adults each year. Additionally, studies by the WDHS reveal that alcohol has correlations with using drugs, getting bad grades, making poor decisions, having health problems, and even suffering death.

“There are a lot of headlines out there that show tragedy when kids and alcohol mix,” said Gramza.

Parents are encouraged to avoid being a party to underage drinking by taking a tough stand on alcohol use, working with other adults to host alcohol-free youth events, setting a positive example, stay home if there is a party in their home, and reporting underage drinking promptly to the police.

In Marshfield, Gramza is excited to see both parents and students embracing the campaign.

“I think it’s important to not preach to the kids, but for the kids to actually take ownership of the program as well,” said Gramza. “It’s great to see high school students both from Columbus and Marshfield High School promoting this as well. I think teens get told by adults enough what to do and what not to do, so when they’re hearing it from their peers, it means more when they are suggesting alternative ways to celebrate other than alcohol.”

Gramza has noticed a decline in underage drinking citations in recent years, but the problem still exists.

“I feel the program is a part of the decline, but I’m not naive enough to think that it’s still not happening and that kids aren’t still drinking,” he said. “Oftentimes now, instead of having a huge drinking party, more quaint social gatherings that aren’t drawing as much attention to them. But it’s still illegal.”

The “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most” campaign is promoted through social media, yard signs, and at area events, and aims to provide a visual reminder to people in the community that supplying alcohol to underage people is illegal and can have tragic consequences.

“It’s a time of year we want to celebrate and not mourn. You work 13 years to graduate and you can end it in a night by drinking,” said Gramza. “If we keep the focus on celebrating positivity, we don’t have to mourn tragedy.”

News Desk
Author: News Desk