Last weekend, teens working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving's Youth In Action (YIA) and state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) 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 asking 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 8 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 4 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," said YIA Coordinator Jessica Paris. "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 Representative Kevin Meyer, who sponsored legislation last year that allows liquor stores to sue both adults $1000 for buying for teens as well as the teens who solicit the alcohol. Representative 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," said YIA Coordinator Jessica Paris. "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 18-19, attempted to buy alcohol directly from liquor stores. Although Juneau had 100 percent compliance in last summer's checks, this weekend in 27 checks, 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 1 year in jail, though a typical sentence is $1,000 and 5 days in jail.