We can’t ignore the teen drinking problem

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2000

We can no longer wink and turn away. An Adams County man learned that lesson this week when he was sentenced to six days in jail, two years probation and a $1,000 fine for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

His crime?

Hosting a party that drew more than 200 minors and offered, among the fare, seven kegs of beer.

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He’s lucky.

As Justice Court Judge Charles Vess pointed out in the sentencing, had deputies chosen to charge with man — who is over 21 — with all 206 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he could have faced more than 200 years in jail and a fine of more than $200,000.

That’s a pretty steep penalty for just having a party.

But perhaps we need those steep penalties to shock our community — adults and minors alike — into realizing the importance of the law that prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol. Teens in Adams County and Natchez have a long history of ignoring this law, from reports of teens passing out behind the wheel of a car idling at a stoplight to Mardi Gras floats filled with rowdy – and inebriated — participants.

Often, parents wink and say it’s just a rite of passage.

But it’s not. In Adams County, in Mississippi, it’s still against the law for anyone under 21 to consume alcoholic beverages.

More important, it’s dangerous. Teens in particular are unsure drivers, without years of experience and confidence on the road. Impair their abilities by adding alcohol and, well, you’re asking for trouble.

Yes, we may sound &uot;preachy&uot; and moralistic. But it’s a problem … just ask any law enforcement officer; our youth court judge; any school counselor; even the teens themselves. And it’s a problem we cannot continue to ignore.