Macon Safe Decisions
Macon-Bibb County Social Host Ordinance Op Ed
Editor: Michael Yanosy
Contributors: Gigi Rolfes, Kaytlin Eldred, Morgan White, Hunter Pilkinton
Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, even more than tobacco and illicit drugs, making underage drinking a major public health problem. Underage drinking is harmful to the developing brain and can be associated with academic failure and illicit drug use. The negative consequences of underage drinking in our community are immense: car crashes (the greatest single mortality risk for underage drinkers), risky sexual activity, academic problems, and alcohol poisoning from binge drinking are a few of the many repercussions.
In several annual surveys and interviews, youth consistently report an unacceptable level of underage drinking, usually at private homes leading to drinking while driving, binge drinking, unintended sexual encounters, and youth violence. Home parties are a big issue and we at Macon Safe Decisions have found a policy tool that would significantly reduce these home parties.
Macon Safe Decisions was formed over 10 years ago as a coalition of service providers, local organizations and concerned citizens to address the serious issues of substance abuse and underage drinking in Macon. Bibb County schools currently have a higher percentage of underage alcohol use compared to the both the state of Georgia and Atlanta Public Schools.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ report from May 2011 states, “Underage drinking, particularly heavy drinking, is more likely to occur in private residences where three or more people are present.” Two of the biggest contributing factors of underage drinking in Macon and Bibb County are the perceived acceptance of underage drinking and the large amount of unsupervised places to drink. This, combined with easy access to unsupervised drinking locations, results in youth being implicitly encouraged to drink underage. This needs to change if we want what is best for our community’s youth.
Along with underage drinking comes the high frequency of binge drinking. Binge drinking occurs when men consume 5 or more drinks and when women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. Despite the fact that binge drinking increases risk for injury, assault, and death, 90% of the alcohol consumed by persons underage is in the form of binge drinking.
With alarming statistics and new medical evidence, Macon Safe Decisions is proposing a Social Host Ordinance to hold responsible the adults who own, lease, or control property where underage drinking occurs. Supporters of this proposal include local prevention agencies, government entities and community leaders.
We have learned so much in the last 10 years about the negative effects drinking can have on teens. Now is the time for action. Get involved with Macon Safe Decisions.
For more information, contact us at: http://maconsafedecisions.org/
Originally Published in The Macon Telegraph (7/21/14)