Cracking down on underage drinking in South Carolina

Published: May. 3, 2019 at 7:13 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (SC DAODAS) says every year about 85 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol use. They say all of these deaths could have been prevented.

Michelle Nienhius is the Manager of Prevention Services at SC DAODAS. She said underage drinking rates have decreased since 2007 but underage drinking is still a problem in South Carolina. “When we’re looking into the health and safety of our adolescents, we want to know they are not partaking in things that may be damaging to their bodies.”

Nienhuis said liquor is now the most popular drink of choice among high school students and that one in nine high school students have driven after drinking in the past month.

According to SC DAODAS, underage drinking costs the state about $1 billion per year.

A 2018 state report with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and SC DAODAS said about 19 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported having alcohol in the past month.

Since 2007, SC DAODAS started the “SC Out of Their Hands Campaign.” They ramp up enforcement and education efforts around prom and graduation time. They say in the last 12 years it has made a difference. Especially with their compliance checks.

“We have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of merchants selling alcohol to minors,” Nienhuis said.

Buy rate has decreased but officials are making a big push to remind parents of South Carolina alcohol laws. “You may think it’s okay to provide your child with alcohol but that’s not the thinking of the majority of people,” Nienhuis said.

If you get caught giving beer, wine or liquor to anyone who is under 21 at your home or anywhere else, you could face big fines and jail time. Your charges can even stack up as well. You’ll be charged for every single underage person with alcohol. “You are responsible for those kids once they are at your establishment. It is against the law to provide someone else’s child with alcohol,” Nienhuis said.

For more information on underage drinking in South Carolina click here.

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