COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Social host ordinance will crack down on house parties

The Del Mar City Council heard from its youth who want teen parties to be safer during open comments at a recent City Council meeting. The youth encouraged the council to adopt a social host ordinance that will hold adults accountable for their role in underage drinking. They recognize that Del Mar parents should not supply alcohol to minors or host the parties where kids are allowed to drink alcohol.
Del Mar will be the last city in the county to adopt a social host ordinance, currently being considered by the council. The social host ordinance is designed to stop underage drinking “house parties” which result in unlawful and dangerous behavior including alcohol poisoning and DUI. The new law will hold any person legally liable for knowingly providing alcohol to minors in party environments, even if that environment is in a private home.
Most people think of underage drinking as a youth problem. However, when a young person drinks alcohol, there is an adult involved in some way, whether it is a retail store who sells to an underage youth, an older sibling, friend or parent who provides the alcohol, or the venue where the drinking can happen. The social host ordinance will hold adults accountable for underage drinking, and hopefully prevent it from happening at all.
Alcohol availability has a direct correlation to increased alcohol use, especially among youth. In a survey conducted by the American Medical Association, one-third of teens reported they had consumed alcohol at home with their parents’ permission. Some parents host underage drinking parties for their teens with good intentions thinking it will keep them safe, however this permissive attitude has often ended in tragedy.
Underage drinking parties can take place not only in homes but in parks, beaches or any outdoor area where alcohol is made available. These parties can often result in traffic crashes, property damage, sexual assault and violence.
Alcohol is by far the most used and abused drug among America’s teenagers. According to Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey 2009, nearly 25 percent of all high school students reported hazardous drinking of five or more drinks in one setting during the last 30 days.
The purpose of the social host ordinance is to protect public health and safety and enforce laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol by minors. This ordinance reinforces adult responsibilities to protect youth from the consequences of underage drinking.

Barbara Gordon is with the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth. E-mail her at SDAlliance4@aol.com.

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