>New Bern, NC – Over the last several months, members and volunteers with the Coastal Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention (CCSAP) have been surveying convenience stores, grocery stores and other retail outlets that sell alcohol in Eastern North Carolina. The process, referred to as an Alcohol Purchase Survey, is a grassroots effort to determine where individuals under the age of 21 are able to purchase alcohol out in the community. Randomly conducted throughout Carteret, Craven, Jones, Onslow, and Pamlico counties; the purpose of these surveys is to make sure all retail outlets that sell alcohol are verifying the buyer’s age before making the sale.
Reducing youth access to alcohol is an important part to preventing underage drinking and can save lives and save futures. Alcohol is one of the most common contributors to injury, death, and criminal behavior among young people, and cost the citizens of the United States $62 billion dollars in 2010, according to a report produced by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). North Carolina is responsible for about $1.5 billion of that total which translates to a cost of $2,070 per year for each youth in the state or $3.17 per drink consumed underage.
Not to be confused with Compliance Checks conducted by law enforcement agencies, which can result in citations and fines; Alcohol Purchase Surveys are for educational purposes only. “Alcohol Purchase Surveys are considered a “best practice” to ensure that alcohol is not sold to minors,” states Carol Mattock, Chair of the Coastal Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention. “While most retail establishments are properly asking to see ID before making the sale, of the outlets surveyed, 28 percent in the five county area did not ask to see ID, which means there is still more work to be done.” continues Ms. Mattocks. The goal of the Alcohol Purchase Survey is not to penalize the retail outlets that fail, but instead to educate them. This is also an opportunity to recognize those outlets that are “doing the right thing”, as the results showed that most retailers, 72 percent of outlets surveyed, are verifying age before the sale. Each retailer surveyed will receive a follow up letter and information on the Responsible Alcohol Seller Program (RASP) provided by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Additional surveys will be conducted in the coming months throughout the five counties.
In December, over 30 law enforcement officers from various agencies in the East attended a training, “How to Conduct Compliance Checks and Shoulder Tap Operations in Your Community.” This
Type of training was made possible through collaboration with the Morehead City Police Department and the Enforcing Underage Drinking Training Center (UDETC).
CCSAP’s vision is to create communities free of substance abuse through policy and environmental change; advocacy and education; and by changing social attitudes, norms and beliefs surrounding substance use and abuse in our communities. If you have questions or would like more information about the Prevent Underage Drinking Initiatives, contact Andrea Swain, Prevent Underage Drinking Coordinator at email@example.com.
Submitted by: Cori Minick, ECU Graduate Student