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HHS students fighting alcohol use by minors

STACEY PLAISANCE / L’Observateur / September 2, 1998

BOUTTE – The Louisiana Alliance to Prevent Underage Drinking awarded half of a $2,500 grant to Hahnville High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions Monday to aid in a project to reduce underage drinking in the community.

Hahnville was one of five schools in the state to receive the mini grant, which will be used to develop a video designed to discourage the consumption and purchase of alcohol by minors. The second half of thegrant will be awarded at a later date.

State Project Director Sharron Ayers hosted a presentation outlining the direction and efforts of the Louisiana Alliance. Present for the event werecommunity officials including Sheriff Greg Champagne, St. Charles ParishSchool Board Member Alfred Green, Superintendent Rodney Lafon and HHS principal Bobby Stephenson.

Promoting policies such as stronger law enforcement and an alcohol tax increase, the alliance is embarking on a statewide effort to crackdown on alcohol consumption by minors.

“The biggest problem with underage drinking are the people over 21 who buy alcohol for those who are under 21,” Champagne said.

Mandatory 21 is the Alliance’s policy initiative, Ayers said. It islegislation that would prevent those 18-20 years of age from entering into bars and lounges where alcohol is the principle commodity and can be consumed on the premises.

Ayers said Mandatory 21 will prevent people over 21 from purchasing and distributing alcohol to underage persons in a bar situation, as it is currently almost impossible to monitor.

It is important for the community to support businesses that comply with current drinking laws in order to assist in the movement to reduce underage drinking, she said. In addition, the alliance is promoting beer kegregistration policies and the enforcement of appropriate penalties.

“We want to have refundable deposits on the kegs so that if customers purchase a keg and return it with the registration tag still attached, they will receive their deposits back,” Ayers said.

Kegs sold by retailers would have a tag that identifies information about the purchaser of the keg. Purchasers provide their name and address to theretailer, along with a signed statement that they will not provide the contents of the keg to minors.

“We want the keg buyers to enforce the drinking law, and if they are going to be held responsible, then maybe they will,” she said.

The video by Hahnville’s SADD Chapter will feature area businesses that are in compliance with the drinking laws, a project initiated by SADD President Reanda Fields. The grant for the commercial project waswritten by Fields.

In July 1998, 10 mini grants were awarded throughout the state, totaling $25,000. Each year, the alliance funds local school and community youthorganizations to complete projects and activities that support the alliance’s goals and strategies at the local level. Fields said she wantsthe video to bring the alliance’s message to the community on a local level by involving area businesses in the effort.

“Parents should support the stores that don’t sell to minors, and that’s the aim of the video,” Ayers said.

With an alcohol tax increase, Ayers said alcohol purchases would be reduced and money would be provided for teacher raises, enforcement and prevention and policy programs. Ayers said Louisiana has not had analcohol tax increase in more than 20 years, alcohol excise taxes have not risen with inflation and beer and wine coolers cost almost the same as soft drinks such as juice and sodas.

A tax increase per alcoholic beverage will prevent one murder, 337 rapes, 2,954 assaults, 424 robberies, 355 drunk driving crashes and $35 million to society over the course of one year, according to a 1998 report by the Children’s Safety Network Economics and Insurance Resource Center.

According to alliance figures, 79 percent of voters statewide support keg registration, and 60 percent of voters statewide are in support of the tax increase. The tax increase would only affect those purchasing alcohol.Making change on a smaller level, College Media Advocates for the alliance are centralized on 12 campuses throughout the state, and these advocates work on alcohol policy change and increased enforcement at the campus level. Advocates keep the alliance up-to-date about all alcohol-relatedactivities on their campus. Advocates form college organizations and worktogether on campus alcohol policies.

Participating colleges include Northeastern Louisiana, Louisiana College, Louisiana Tech, LSU, LSU-Shreveport, LSU-Alexandria, McNeese State, USL, Nicholls State and Dillard University.

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