Underage Drinking… “a little beer.”

By Sean Wallace
Underage Drinking is a leading public health problem. Youth 12-20 abuse alcohol at a higher rate than they abuse tobacco or illicit drugs. Why is this a problem? Is it possible societal attitudes toward underage drinking are contributing to the problem? Have we allowed alcohol producers and distributors to operate unchecked as they market and sell to our kids? Alcohol beverage companies produce alcoholic beverages that are euphemistically called “alcho-pops” because they resemble soda and other soft drinks in taste and appearance. Those beverages are obviously marketed for young people, not adults. When local alcohol distributers statewide are caught selling to an underage agent of the police during a sting over and over again, they rarely face consequences of any significance.
Could it be in addition to society at large, the attitudes of our local citizens toward underage drinking are also contributing to the problem? I have dealt with underage drinking for 25 years as a police officer, and for the past four years as the Chief of Police of the Arkansas City Police Department. I have been asked the same question for 25 years by well-meaning citizens. They ask why we (the police) do not concentrate on “real crime” and leave the kids drinking “a little beer” alone, after all, “they’re not hurting anyone.” Really? In Arkansas City “a little beer” leads to a lot of life-altering problems for the young people of our community. Over 50 percent of the rapes reported in our city occur at underage drinking parties. Over the past few years, Arkansas City Police Officers have watched paramedics treat at least a dozen of our youth for alcohol poisoning. This is not to mention the property damage, assaults, and car crashes that have become a normal part of these gatherings.
We all must change our attitudes about underage drinking. It is more than just “a little beer.” It is a growing problem. Help stop “a little beer” from causing a lot of pain for our children. Report underage drinking and protect our children’s health, dignity, and future.

Sean Wallace is the Chief of Police in Arkansas City, Kansas. 

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