Underage drinking is a serious concern in Nevada, and police agencies across the state are working to remind retailers, alcohol servers, and teens that if they do not abide by the laws, they will face consequences. Students are returning to classes for the Fall semester. Many young adults are moving in to dorms and living on their own for the first time. For many, that means a new sense of freedom.
Many students will be busy adjusting to their new schedules, making new friends, and in many cases, partying around and off campus. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that almost 38% of young adults Nevada have engaged in binge drinking (SAMHSA). If you work selling or serving alcoholic beverages, be on the lookout for underage drinkers, and make sure to always check for valid identification. Additionally, remember to keep a close eye on patrons and make sure no one is over-served. Even adults ages 21 and over need to be monitored closely to keep things safe. For more tips on stopping underage drinkers, read our blog post, “A Dangerous Cocktail –Teen Drinking.”
Police are stepping up their patrols around the state. Don’t forget, alcohol education in mandatory in both Clark and Washoe counties. In addition to online and classes in Las Vegas, TAM® of Nevada is able to conduct alcohol awareness online course proctoring in Reno, and offers courses for individuals once a month in Mesquite.
Alcohol enforcement activities used to limit youth access to alcohol, everything from hospitality workers checking I.D. to police personnel enforcing the law and making arrests, are critical to reducing underage drinking and its often tragic consequences. One of the most problematic enforcement scenarios for sales professionals are third-party sales of alcoholic beverage products. In fact, research indicates that 30-70% of alcohol outlets may sell to underage buyers, depending partially on their geographic location (OJJPD).
A third-party sale occurs when an adult buys alcohol for someone underage, from a commercial establishment, for his or her underage consumption. In some cases, the adult will ask for or accept a fee and/or a portion of the alcohol in exchange for making the purchase. The amount of alcohol obtained by underage drinkers from these transactions can range from one drink in a bar to a keg of beer for a field party (OJJPD). A great example of this type of scenario is a teen approaching an adult stranger outside of a liquor store and asking the adult to purchase liquor for them in exchange for a small fee.
Many teens report that they most often obtain alcohol from others over the age of 21, so enforcement of third party sales must be a high priority. In fact, a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that 51% of 18-20 year olds in Nevada have engaged in underage drinking within the past month, and 36% have engaged in binge drinking within the last month (SAMHSA). This indicates that teens are finding ways to obtain and consume alcoholic beverages, despite best efforts on the part of sales professionals and police.
Off-site premises workers at grocery or convenience stores don’t necessarily know that if they sell beer and liquor to a legal adult, the adult won’t provide that liquor to teenagers. But, using best judgment techniques and following store procedures will help to keep things safe and legal.
The national campaign We Don’t Serve Teens from the FTC Consumer Education section makes excellent and common-sense suggestions for helping to curb teenage drinking from off-site sales. Tips include simple procedures such as creating and maintaining sales and service policies that every staffer should follow (We Don’t Serve Teens – FTC). Everyone involved in sales should be aware of store policies regarding acceptable forms of ID, when and how to refuse a sale, etc. Other simple suggestions include:
- If you work in a commercial establishment, keep an eye on the front of the property if possible, and report any minors loitering around the entrance or parking lot to your manager or supervisor. This could be evidence of minors trying to approach customers to purchase alcoholic beverages on their behalf.
- Make sure that ‘alcopops’ and mixed, carbonated malt liquor beverages frequently sold off-premises are displayed in areas dedicated to alcoholic beverages, not in the soft drink section. Many of these drinks can be easily confused for non-alcoholic energy drinks, and it just makes it easier on everyone involved to keep them separate. As a sales professional, be extra cautious when making these types of sales. Sweet and fizzy alcoholic beverages are a favorite among teen drinkers.
- Always card anyone who appears to be under the age of 30 and make sure to observe the character and demeanor of your customer. Retailers and off-site sales professionals should be diligent about checking IDs to make sure teenagers are not trying to purchase liquor with fake or borrowed identification.
- Make sure to complete your mandatory alcohol awareness training from TAM® of Nevada. TAM® teaches thousands of off-site and on-site sales professionals how to safely and responsibly serve and sell alcoholic beverages each year, including preventing third party sales. TAM® will also educate you on important local, state and federal laws that apply to alcohol sales.
Readers: Now it’s your turn! Share your best tips and tricks for helping to stop teen drinking in the Comments section below.
The ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, also called alcopop, was one of the biggest stories in the beverage service and sales industry in 2010. Popular beverages such as Four Loko were called dangerous, a binge in a can, and worse. The Food and Drug Administration declared alcoholic energy drinks to be a public health concern and concluded that caffeine added to malt alcoholic beverages was an unsafe food additive (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). Four Loko removed the caffeine from their beverages to comply with new regulations. Now, the FTC has reached a settlement with Phusion Products, the makers of Four Loko, to take it a step further.
In an effort keep drinkers safe and well informed about how much alcohol they are consuming, cans of Four Loko will now display an “Alcohol Facts” label, similar to a nutritional label, to make it clear they pack a potent punch.
These facts will include the container size, percentage alcohol by volume, number of servings in the container and serving size in fluid ounces (NPR). Additionally, all cans of Four Loko containing more than two-and-a-half servings will also have to be re-sealable. The intent is to help consumers realize that they should not consume the entire can in one sitting. A can of Four Loko contains up to 12% alcohol, and a 23.5 ounce can is equivalent to about four or five standard beers (San Francisco Chronicle). Binge drinking means drinking so much within about 2 hours that blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels reach 0.08g/dL. For women, this usually occurs after about 4 drinks, and for men, after about 5. (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
This should serve as a reminder to all beverage service professionals to always serve responsibly. Alcopops with colorful packaging and fruity flavors are especially popular with teen drinkers, so servers and sellers should be extra vigilant in checking identification and observing guests.
© 2013 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada
A new survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says Nevada comes in just below the national average for underage drinking with roughly 1 in 4 teens admitting to illegally imbibing. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 24.5% of Nevada residents between the ages of 12 and 20 drank liquor in the previous month.
While Nevada numbers fall below the national underage drinking rate of 26.6%, and give the state the 13th lowest rate in the country, this is still an alarming trend. As a service professional, what can you do to reinforce the message that underage drinking is not OK and the majority of underage people do not drink? What more can you do to help prevent underage drinking and keep things safe?
It only takes a minute to check an ID and prevent a minor from entering a bar and buying a drink. Additionally, gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores are all places that teens turn to in order to purchase liquor, and staffers at those establishments should also take steps to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent illegal sales.
The first defense for sales professionals is a thorough knowledge of local and state laws, and mandatory alcohol awareness training. Alcohol awareness training from TAM of Nevada will teach you how to spot fake, altered and borrowed identification, which is popular with teen drinkers. Also remember that TAM Cards expire after four years, contact TAM® of Nevada if you need to renew your training. Officials may ask to see your alcohol awareness card during an alcohol compliance check.
- State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol: 2008 to 2010 – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
© 2012 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada