Liquor-tax allotment a good idea to reduce teen drinking

December 10, 2013 

There are many things that parents of teenagers worry about, and near the top of that list is drinking, particularly when it goes with driving. Too many parents have gotten those late-night calls from law enforcement officers telling them of terrible accidents and injuries or worse that might not have happened, absent alcohol.

Underage drinking is a serious problem in North Carolina and everywhere else, and Jim Gardner has a good plan for attacking it. Gardner, a former lieutenant governor and congressman, now heads the state ABC Commission that oversees alcohol sales. He wants the legislature to designate a small portion of the tax revenue from liquor sales (2.5 percent, or about $2.35 million) for an initiative to reduce underage drinking.

Utah has a program, Gardner says, that could be the model.

Reducing the number of teens who drink and drive is a top priority. In 2011, Gardner says, North Carolina lost on average one teen’s life a week due to teens driving while impaired. Underage drinkers also make other bad decisions while under the influence of alcohol. Statistics show that, in 2009, more than 700 teen pregnancies in North Carolina were attributable to teen drinking. Underage alcohol use that year also played a role in 60 homicides, 26,800 nonfatal violent crimes and 67,400 property crimes.

In addition to stepped-up enforcement of laws against selling alcohol to underage persons, Gardner is calling for a sustained awareness campaign about the hazards of teen drinking. In particular, he wants to convince parents of the need for them to get more involved in this issue. Peer pressure is tough to counter, but parents still have influence over their youngsters.

Some ideas are just good ones and need to be acted upon. This is one of those ideas.

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