Dear Editor:

A recent article on underage drinking demonstrated the need to change a state law that leaves it up to municipalities to prohibit underage drinking on private property.

While I applaud the municipalities that have taken this important step to combat underage drinking, I am troubled by all of the municipalities that have not. In fact, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, eight municipalities in Monmouth County have not passed an ordinance banning underage drinking on private property.

For this reason, I introduced legislation, A-3573 that would clarify that police officers can enforce the laws against underage drinking and punish youths that engage in this practice, whether on public or private property.

According to the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 55.9 percent of underage drinkers consume alcohol in someone else’s home. It is well known that underage drinking can lead to a multitude of problems including poor performance in school, behavioral problems, a higher risk of suicide, illicit drug use, and drunken driving.

In fact, underage drinkers are more likely than those over the age of 21 to combine alcohol with illicit drugs, such as marijuana. In addition, 6 percent of 16 or 17 year olds and nearly 17 percent of 18 to 20 year olds said that they had driven under the influence of alcohol within the past year.

Underage drinking is a serious problem and it is the responsibility of not only local government, but the state government, to work to prevent underage drinking and the negative consequences that result from this behavior. The enactment of A-3573 would be a good first step toward closing this loophole and equally importantly, would send the message to our youth that underage drinking will not be tolerated in any of our communities.

Sincerely,

Mary Pat Angelini

Assemblywoman, 11th District