This New Year’s Eve: “Underage Drinking is Not a Minor Problem”

A gentle reminder from the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition: this New Year’s Eve, celebrate 2015 in style and safely.

Cheryl Jonese, prevention coordinator for the Coalition, said the group’s recent grant aimed at reducing underage drinking was initiated this past October to target the holiday party season.

“The one reason we did it during that time is the holiday season. Around Halloween, there’s parties being held and then of course you go right into Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. So those are kind of big target party times and times that young folks are out of school with the Thanksgiving break and Christmas and leading up to New Year’s break, so there is an increase in the potential for under-age sales to minors, and that’s one reason like I said we decided to do it during that time,” Jonese said.

The grant through the West Virginia’s Juvenile Justice system was awarded to Randolph, Jackson, McDowell, Mercer, and Pocahontas counties. Pocahontas received $6,700, which is allocated for materials such as posters and pamphlets handed out to schools, as well as stipends to law enforcement officers and youth attempting to buy alcohol at area stores.

“One of our biggest goals is that when we do these compliance checks with law enforcement is that we not have – we call them buys, whenever an establishment sells to an underage drinker – our goal is to have zero buys. I don’t want to see any retailer or any bar out there selling to an underage drinker.

“We did a check in early December and out of 21 places checked in Pocahontas County, we had four places that sold to underage drinkers,” Jonese said.

Checks at area stores will continue through February.

“For retailers, to kind of be aware that there could be heightened activity for underage drinkers to be seeking out alcohol, maybe even getting an adult to buy it for them, walk out to the parking lot and hand it to them. So just kind of be aware and just take that ID, just ask for that identification, make sure that person is 21 before you sell to them.

“And I guess for servers at bars, sometimes somebody at the bar might have a little too much to drink, and if you recognize that and you feel that they’re not safe to drink anymore, refuse to serve that person. And I’m sure your manager or your establishment has a way to deal with that.

“But don’t be afraid to do the right thing, say, ‘you look like you’ve had a few too many right now, I’m not going to serve you any more alcohol,’” she said.

Jonese urged parents not to allow underage drinking.

“What I tell people first of all for parents is just to keep in mind that you’re in charge and that you are the number one influence on your children. No matter what they hear in school or see from their friends, it’s what you do and what you promote that really has the biggest affect on your child.

“So it might take a little bit of planning, but if your teenager or your tween wants to have a holiday party, plan it out, have a themed party. Something big with kids now are called glow parties where you buy inexpensive black lights and kids dress in white, you have great music, you can get glow bracelets and glow necklaces.

“You might want to have a karaoke party. There’s some fun parties going on now called “fear factors,” where you do really silly things. It’s kind of fun and kids enjoy it, like you might have a bowl full of hard-boiled eggs and one of the eggs is not hard boiled, and the challenge is to take an egg and crack it on your forehead. Kids love that stuff, and they take crazy pictures, and it’s just lots of fun and no alcohol’s involved,” Jonese said.

If you’re over 21 years, caution is still important this New Year’s Eve.

“If you’re of age 21 or older and you plan to be drinking on New Year’s Eve, eat something before you go out. Also, space your drinks out – don’t have any more than one drink an hour and drink some other things in between so that you’re not getting too intoxicated and becoming at risk for driving under the influence. And the other thing is a designated driver. If you know you’re going out to a bar, make sure that one person is not drinking, so that person can drive you safely.”

Story By

Kelly Taber

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