Last weekend, teens working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving's Youth In Action and state Alcohol Beverage Control officers discovered that it is not difficult to find adult strangers who will buy alcohol for teens.
Ranging in age from 14 to 19, the teens stood downtown near liquor stores and asked passing strangers to buy alcohol for them while admitting to be underage. Whether the adult answered yes or no, the teens then presented him with a card that explained this was only a survey, and the legal consequences of actually buying for someone underage. An ABC officer stood nearby to ensure the teens' safety and to assure people of the legality of the survey.
One pair of teens, which included a 14-year-old with braces on his teeth, had to wait only eight minutes before a young man said he would buy for them. Another pair of teens had to wait only about a minute before a middle-aged woman agreed. Overall, the teens spent one hour in two different locations downtown and found that four out of the 24 parties they asked were willing to buy.
"We were surprised and disappointed at how easy it was to find someone willing to buy," YIA coordinator Jessica Paris said. "However, we also had some adults who responded very admirably. One woman, not realizing it was a survey, went into the nearest liquor store and asked them to call the police. And at Kenny's Liquor Market, the clerk came out to investigate what the teens were doing."
One adult the teens asked happened to be state Rep. Kevin Meyer, who sponsored legislation last year allowing liquor stores to sue adults for buying alcohol for minors as well as the teens who solicit the alcohol. Rep. Meyer refused to buy for them, warning them he could get in big trouble.
"This survey shows us that we have to work harder to convince people they shouldn't provide alcohol to teens," Paris said. "Adults need to know about the tragedies that accompany underage drinking, as well as the serious legal consequences for providing to a minor."
ABC also conducted compliance checks over the weekend in which teen agents, aged 18 to 19, attempted to buy alcohol directly from liquor stores. Although Juneau had 100 percent compliance in last summer's checks, in 27 checks held last weekend, clerks sold to underage teens twice. Clerks, bartenders and wait staff face the same penalties for providing to an underage person that regular adults do - fines of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail, though a typical sentence is $1,000 and five days in jail.