As high school graduation ceremonies around the state come to a close, graduation party season begins. Celebrating the achievements of our high school grads this summer with alcohol is a common practice, but parents should beware. Allowing your underage drinkers to consume alcohol in your home is illegal in Connecticut. Here’s what parents need to know before handing their teen a beverage this summer.
Connecticut Underage Drinking and Social Hosting Laws
Drinking laws in Connecticut can give parents the wrong idea when it comes to underage drinking. According to the Connecticut Underage Liquor/Drinking Laws, it is illegal for minors under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcohol aside from four exceptions:
- They are 18 and work for a liquor permit holder.
- They are ordered by a physician.
- They are drinking for religious purposes.
- They are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse over 21.
When it comes to graduation parties, a parent may supply their own child with an alcoholic beverage. However, the law does not protect parents who serve other underage drinkers on their property, even if it was your teen who did the serving.
According to the Connecticut Social Host Law: “No person having possession of, or exercising dominion and control over, any dwelling unit or private property shall 1) knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, permit any minor to possess alcoholic liquor or 2)knowing that any minor possesses alcoholic liquor fails to make reasonable efforts to halt such possession.
There are two ways parents can be held liable for underage drinking in Connecticut:
- Class A Misdemeanor: Parents who knowingly allow their teens to throw underage drinking parties at their home, and who are not present, could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. Even a first offender could spend up to one year in jail
- Class E Felony: Parents who are present and are actively providing alcohol to minors could be charged with a Class E felony leading to a $3,500 charge and imprisonment of up to 18 months. First offenders may get off with a lesser charge, but it’s still not worth the risk.
The Dangers of Underage Drinking
Aside from the legal repercussions for permitting underage drinking, parents who allow their kids to consume alcohol are putting their health at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.)reports drinking before the age of 21 is significantly linked with the following outcomes:
- Death-Approximately 4,300 individuals under the age of 21 die every year due to excessive drinking. The most common cause of alcohol-related death for teens is alcohol poisoning, a condition that can fatal symptoms that include severe dehydration, slow breathing, hypothermia, and unconsciousness.
- Car Accidents-Teens are more likely to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Drunk drivers are known for causing traumatic accidents that can prove fatal for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists sharing the road.
- Poor School Performance-Teens who consume alcohol are less likely to perform well in school, including higher absenteeism and failing grades.
- Changes In The Brain-The teenage brain is not fully formed until around the age of 22. Alcohol can affect the development and growth of the brain, preventing teens from reaching their full potential.
- Binge Drinking-Teens allowed to drink at home have more of an opportunity to binge drink than teens who are not. At least 90 percent of underage drinkers are participating in binge drinking and putting themselves at risk for future health consequences.
- Alcohol Use Disorder-Teens who start drinking young have a higher change of alcohol dependency in the future. Alcohol use disorder can put teens at a higher risk for liver disease, hypertension, heart problem, diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and more. Continued problems with alcohol can also increase their chances for accidents at work, school, or in the community and their chances of legal troubles.
The Myth About Alcohol Exposure
Many parents who allow their teens to drink at home believe they are positively exposing them to alcohol. However, health experts have proven this theory to be incorrect.
A study posted in The Lancet in 2018 found that teens who drink at home are just as likely to become dependent on alcohol or suffer alcohol-related harm(s) as teen drinkers to drink elsewhere. The study followed more than 1,000 underage drinkers in Australia and found those with parents who prohibited underage drinking in the home were the only individuals with a lower risk of alcohol-related issues. Any teen allowed to consume alcohol at their residence, even if only a few sips here and there, showed higher rates of alcoholism, binge drinking, and poor decision making when it came to responsible drinking.
Drinking Laws Work
Drinking laws were created in our country for a reason. Alcohol is harmful to the teenage brain, and early exposure can set your teen up for disaster.
According to the C.D.C., the national drinking age of 21 was adopted nationwide after the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Studies showed significant safety and health benefits from adopting the legal drinking age of 21, including:
- Fewer motor vehicle accidents-Prior to the national law, the legal drinking age was established by state governments. States who raised their legal drinking age to 21 in 1984 saw a 16 percent median decline in motor vehicle accidents.
- Decreased underage drinking-Alcohol consumption for individuals ages 18 to 20 decreased from 59 percent to 40 percent during the first month the national drinking age was enacted. Drinking among individuals 21 to 25 also reduced from 70 percent to 56 percent.
- Reduced risk factors-Studies on alcohol consumption and age have proven a correlation between underage drinking and certain health risk factors such as drug dependency, birth defects, suicide, and homicide. States who raised their drinking age also so decreases in these risk factors.
Allowing your teen to consume alcohol immediately puts their health and safety at risk. High school graduates about to embark on their first year of college significantly decrease their chances of academic success by consuming alcohol. Educating your teens on the risks of alcohol and helping them make positive decisions about underage drinking is critical to protecting them from alcohol-related harm.
How Talk To Protect Your Teen
Parents are allowed to supply their children with alcoholic beverages in private residences, but it’s still not a good idea. To help protect your teen from alcohol-related harm this summer, here some steps parents can take to reduce their risk:
- Talk-Keep an open line of communication with your teen about alcohol. Find out what they know and what they need more information on when it comes to binge drinking and alcohol dependency. Establishing trust with your teen will make them more likely to approach you with questions and concerns.
- Be aware-If your teen is attending a graduation party, know whose. Several parents are still supportive of underage drinking and may allow all new graduates to consume alcohol at the party. Know the parents and their reputation for parties before allowing your teen to attend.
- Report-If you become aware that parents are proving alcohol to teens or allowing underage drinking parties, report them to the authorities. Putting a stop to a party before it gets out of hand can save the lives.
- Be a role model- Teens who see their parents drink responsibly are more likely to do the same. If you drink around your child, do not get out of control or drink and drive. If you are not sure how to set a good example, try to sustain from drinking in front of your kids.
Graduation parties are for celebrating high school graduates, not for drinking. Consider hosting a dry graduation party for your teen to show how sobriety can be fun and seek support from your family and friends to spread the word. Congratulations to all Connecticut graduates- have fun and stay safe this summer!