Retailer training key to preventing youth alcohol use

Forty-six percent of 6th to 12th graders in Blount County drank more than a few sips of alcohol before the age of 15, according to the 2007 Strategic Prevention Framework - State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) Student Survey. When asked who had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, 29 percent of these kids confirmed they had. Also, 19 percent of these 6th to 12th graders had, on at least one occasion in the previous two weeks, consumed five or more alcoholic beverages in a row.

Eighty two percent of these surveyed kids believed that adults in their community would think drinking alcohol was wrong, but yet several were still experimenting with alcohol. So, how can we limit the access that kids have to alcohol, in order to reduce youth alcohol use? As most of us know, a lot of this starts in the home - making sure that our kids do not have access. Also, Blount County alcohol retailers play a large role by thoroughly training their employees and through requiring ID checks for alcohol purchases.

The Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team commends our local retailers for their strides in curbing underage alcohol access, and wants to support the continuation of these efforts. To assist in this, the team is providing a free training opportunity on reducing underage sales for off-premise alcohol retailers. This training event is provided through funding from the Drug Free Communities (DFC) federal grant for off-premise retailers (grocery stores, convenient stores, package stores, etc.).

At this free retailer training session, a professional instructor from TopShelf Responsible Beverage Service will cover a broad range of topics to assist retailers and their staff in responsible practices to reduce underage sales in their businesses. In addition, information on the effectiveness of reducing retail access by creating an effective store policy will be discussed.

Since retailers are on the frontlines in prevention of underage alcohol access, one of the Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team’s goals is to assist them in their efforts and recognize those retailers who responsibly serve the Blount County community. The event will be held at the Blount County Public Library, Dorothy Herron room, on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 2:30-4 p.m., and snacks will be provided for participants. Off-premise alcohol retailers can RSVP by calling 865-977-5745 or e-mailing JLStith@bmnet.com by Tuesday, Sept. 13. On-premise alcohol server training is not covered in this training opportunity.

For the retailers that choose to attend the training, there are a few extra perks. All attendees will receive free employee educational tools including a training DVD, workbook and ID coder, valued at $250. Also, the first 10 off-premise alcohol retailers who register and attend the training will receive a free electronic alcohol and tobacco calendar, valued at $200.

The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team welcomes new members to join in the underage prevention effort. The team meets at the Blount County Health Department at noon on the third Wednesday of every month. For more information about the Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team or retailer training opportunities, call 865-977-5745.

Jessica Stith is the project manager for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach.

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