|Are having more convenient places to shop worth what it might do to our kids? The places residents can already go to purchase alcohol in the towns and Springfield neighborhoods that this newspaper covers are numerous. While it seems harmless, approving Question 1 could more than double the number of liquor licenses in the state, but provide no more money to enforce underage drinking laws. Licenses would not just be available to grocery stores, but convenience stores, gas stations, mini-marts and even drug stores that meet the criteria. |
Many of these stores employ 15 and 16 year olds. They would have easy access to wine, and would be put in the position of having to refuse to sell (or provide) alcohol to their classmates and friends. And yes, kids do drink wine, especially if it is more readily available than beer. A recent research study done by the Center for Addiction and Mental health found that 54% of students in grades 7 to 12 drink wine.
Do we really need alcohol available every place our families shop?
According to several leading scientific journals, increasing the number of places where alcohol is sold leads to an increase in drunk driving crashes, underage drinking, and crime. Of the eleven states with the worst drunk-driving fatality rates, all eleven sell wine in convenience stores.
Sting operations done in other states show that supermarkets and convenience stores fail to stop underage buyers at a higher rate than dedicated package stores. One recent sting operation found that convenience stores failed to stop underage buyers 52% of the time while dedicated package stores failed 15% of the time.
Currently there are too few resources to monitor the liquor licenses that are already in place. The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission has only eleven enforcement officers to cover the entire state. Adding hundreds of new licenses will only make their numbers less effective.
The connection is clear. The more alcohol outlets in a community, the more likely it is that alcohol will end up in the hands of teens. Delaying teens' experimentation with alcohol as long as possible has been shown to significantly decrease the chance of problems not only in youth but also in to adulthood. Drug and alcohol free teens become adults who make more responsible substance use choices. As a parent of two teenagers and a public health professional working in the field of substance use prevention, I urge voters to join me in saying no to Question 1 on November 7th.