Calling all alcohol retailers: Protect our youth

More than 10 years ago when the Community Health Initiative was established, a community assessment identified substance abuse, among other issues, as an area of great concern in Blount County. The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team was one of several teams created at that time, and it has continued to increase awareness and educate Blount Countians ever since. This awareness and education comes from a combined effort of the team, law enforcement, government officials, business leaders, educators and you - as a community member.

In 2009, the team began focusing more on underage alcohol consumption, which also was a major concern. Its members have strived to communicate awareness through prom and graduation projects; fatal vision equipment donated to law enforcement student driver education programs; a seminar on the signs and symptoms of substance abuse; a town hall meeting to raise awareness of the Social Host Liability Law; and most recently, a training session for alcohol retailers to reduce illegal over-the-counter alcohol sales to minors.

If you are a retailer that sells alcohol, keep in mind the health, safety and future of our children, and educate your employees on how to identify potential underage buyers. As a retailer, you should strive to:

• Increase compliance with state and local laws that prohibit alcohol sales to minors. These laws include required checking of identification for alcohol purchasers, required point-of-sale warning signs and any applicable local restrictions.

• Educate your store managers and employees about the reasons your outlet should not sell alcohol to minors, which includes health problems, compliance with the law, and community values and norms.

• Educate and train store employees and managers about the different ways they can prevent illegal alcohol sales to minors.

• Facilitate the development and enactment of store and corporate policies designed to prevent illegal alcohol sales to minors.

• Get involved with community organizations that are working to reduce youth initiation of alcohol. This sets the tone and an example for your employees.

There are several things employees can do to prepare for the attempted buy of alcohol from an underage person.

• Know the law. It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

• Utilize an ID coder to highlight the essential information on a driver’s license to determine if a buyer is old enough to purchase alcohol.

• Be sure the photo matches the person using the ID. Watch for fuzzy or dark photos.

• Hold the ID to feel for bumps of splits in the lamination (signs of tampering).

• Watch for eraser marks; types that do not line up straight; type styles that do no not match; damaged paper surface (usually around date of birth); and signs of altered signature or information pasted over the original document.

Retailers and owners have a responsibility to provide their employees with essential tools to make good decisions when faced with a potential underage purchaser. The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team wants to partner with your retail outlet to ensure underage alcohol sales don’t happen. The team can provide you with a free kit that includes materials and tools to assist your business in the effort to prevent this. The kit includes state-specific ID coders for 20 employees, manager training manual, state laws, CODES for Carding poster, ID checking guide and a lighted magnifying glass. To get your kit, call the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach at 865-977-5727.

Judy Clabough is the community outreach coordinator for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach.

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