AUBURN — The town hall meeting on underage drinking made clear that teenagers were indeed still drinking — and if you’re an adult thinking about hosting a party — don’t.

Daniel Morin, health promotion coordinator, substance abuse for Healthy Androscoggin, provided grim numbers from a 2013 survey on underage drinking.

Morin said 38.6 percent of middle school students staid it would be “sort of” to “very easy” to get their hands on booze.

Furthermore, Morin said 29 percent of respondents didn’t think they would get caught if they could find alcohol.

High school students reported 23.6 percent of students consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, while 13.2 percent identified themselves as binge drinking in the past 30 days.

Morin also said the numbers of middle and high school students who felt their parents condoned one to two drinks a day are on a disturbing rise.

What’s at stake for teens who decide to drink?

According to Morin, fines for underage drinking range from $200 to $600, depending on the number of convictions.

Beer in the trunk of a car is also covered, according to Morin, as teens can be slapped with a 30-day license suspension and fine of no more than $500 for a first offense.

Teens operating under the influence face up to a one-year license suspension, according to Morin. If the driver’s blood alcohol level is .08 or greater, that suspension will go up another 180 days.

Morin said some parents choose to furnish alcohol or a place to consume alcohol because they believe the children will drink anyway and it would be safer at home.

But parents who furnish either alcohol or a place to consume alcohol face a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,000. Furthermore, if a minor is injured or killed, the adult can face felony charges.

“If you hit someone hard in the wallet, you get their attention,” Maine State Police Trooper Kyle Tilsley said. “Some of the biggest aftermaths I’ve seen are the civil suits that come out of these incidents.”

He referred to a case where a teen became ineligible for federal student loans for college because he was involved in a lawsuit stemming from an incident where he and a friend got into his parents’ wine. The friend fell down and ended up in a hospital emergency room.

Officer Tom Murphy of the Lewiston Police Department said, “One of my favorites is, ‘You’re ruining my kid’s life.’ I’m ruining your kid’s life?”

So, what is a parent to do? Morin encouraged them to talk with their teens — and talk often — about alcohol use, expectations and consequences, should those expectations be broken.

Morin encourages parents to get to know their child’s friends and parents as well as a “trust but verify” approach to their teen going out. Check in with your child, and be aware of the signs they’ve been drinking, he advised.

One tool Lewiston-Auburn 911 Emergency Communications System has developed to combat underage drinking and drug use is a new program dubbed AndroTip.

Parents, teens or anyone with information can anonymously tip off emergency personnel. Information is sent via an encrypted Canadian server that sends the information to the L-A 911 communications center.

Director of L-A 911 Phyllis Gamache said tipsters can make the report in any of three ways. Tips can be texted to AndroTip, along with any information to 274637 (CRIMES). There is also a free mobile app called TipSubmit for iPhone or Android, as well as online at healthyandroscoggin.org.

Gamache said the program is funded by a grant provided by the Maine Office on Substance Abuse and the Drug Free Communities Grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The program will be federally funded for two years.

Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell said, “This has been an excellent collaborative effort on the part of Lewiston and Auburn police departments as well as the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department, the Lisbon Police Department and Healthy Androscoggin.

“We are united in keeping our kids safe during this year’s prom and graduation season,” he said.

“Prom and graduation season is a perfect time to launch the AndroTip program,” Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere said. “But this is a year-round effort by law enforcement to ensure our children grow up healthy and safely.

“I’m hopeful the anonymous nature of the tip reporting will encourage greater involvement from the community,” he said.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

By age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least one drink.

By age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink.

In 2009, 10.4 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.

People ages 12–20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Although youths drink less often than adults do, they drink more when they do, because youths consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking. Binge drinking is consuming many drinks on an occasion. Drinking alcohol and binge drinking become more prevalent as young people get older.

6.9 million young people had five or more drinks on the same occasion, within a few hours, at least once in the past month.

2.1 million young people had five or more drinks on the same occasion on five or more days over the past month.


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