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Underage Drinking Enforcement Crackdown Can Be Effective says Local Prevention Experts

It might be harder for minors to buy alcohol or use a fake I-D in the coming months...Several state agencies are increasing enforcement of underage drinking laws.  One prevention specialist says the crackdown is the right thing to do on several levels. 

Philip Rose is Program Coordinator for underage drinking prevention at Prevention Network.  He says to begin with, enforcement is part of the equation.

“If we have a law but nobody enforces it, then people will ignore it.  The fact that it is against the law to have fake IDs and it’s against the law as a young person to drink, is really critical.” 

Even more critical might be the physiological impacts drinking can have on young people.  Rose notes research on the brain shows it doesn’t really fully develop until a young person reaches their the mid-20s.

“Alcohol and other drugs have a huge impact on a young person’s brain, as far as developmentally and behaviorally.  So it’s really a powerful substance, that we underestimate what it does to the developing brain and therefore, sets people up: the earlier you start using these substances, the harder it is to get off of them.”

The crackdown by the State Liquor Authority and Department of Motor Vehicleswill increase under-cover checks at bars, restaurants and concert venues. 

“Underage drinking and fake IDs are not only illegal, but can lead to reckless decisions that can have life-altering consequences,” Governor Cuomo said in a release. “These operations will build on our successful efforts to protect our state’s youth, safeguard our roadways from impaired drivers, and hold accountable those who seek to enable this dangerous behavior."


  • State Liquor Authority and Department of Motor Vehicles investigators plan to target more than 500 licensed establishments in two months.
  • Places with alcohol licenses that sell to minors face penalties up to $10,000 per violation; fines start at $2500 for a first time offense.
  • Last year undercover sweeps resulted in seizures of 862 fraudulent licenses and the arrest of 818 individuals , both single-year records.
  • The enforcement action adds to the "No Excuses" public information campaign launched last year.

Rose believes most owners of establishments take it seriously...but can’t always single out those using false identification to buy alcohol.

Prevention experts say the impacts of alcohol and other drugs on teens is misunderstood and minimized. Research shows the brain develops past age 20 and can be impaired by early use and abuse.

“They’re having struggles with them.  Because they’re so sophisticated now, even people who are screening these cards …often miss them just because, these cards, they’re expensive, but they work.” 

Increased enforcement can help...but Rose looks at what was done to curb smoking as another front that could be effective in reducing the rates of underage drinking.

“ What we have done as a society with tobacco around advertising has been excellent.  We really have brought down the level of use of tobacco over the years and we’ve been very effective at that.  We need to do the same thing for alcohol.  Alcohol advertising, they spend over $5 Billion, the industry, on promoting their product.  It’s on TV; it’s on billboards; it’s in our young people’s face all the time.”

He says society really needs to make the decision to limit such advertising because of the effect it has on young people.  The crackdown on selling alcohol to minors and the use of fake I-Ds runs through April.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.