CHEYENNE - With most underage drinkers in Wyoming getting alcohol from friends and family, a new statewide public awareness campaign will promote the message that it isn't acceptable or legal for adults to buy alcohol for minors.
First lady Nancy Freudenthal joined law enforcement officials Friday in pledging to do their part alongside members of the Wyoming Liquor Division and the Wyoming Liquor Association to combat underage drinking.
Freudenthal said she hopes the bill passed by the Legislature this year will make this message clear. Under the bill, it is a misdemeanor for adults to provide alcohol to minors at a house party.
Freudenthal said Wyoming leads the country in children drinking alcohol before their 13th birthday.
According to a survey by The Century Council, 65 percent of teenage drinkers get alcohol from friends and family. The not-for-profit organization found that only 7 percent of teenagers are getting alcohol from retailers that don't check identification.
Freudenthal said young drinkers could face a number of problems, from slower brain development to early addiction.
Suicide, assault, depression, rape and drunken driving also could plague these drinkers, she said.
Last year, there were nine alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Wyoming among youth under the age of 21.
Michael Moser, administrator for the Wyoming Liquor Association, said all state liquor retailers will be given promotional material to educate the public about underage drinking.
"Wyoming, to some degree, is a poster child of how different facets of a community can work together to solve common problems," he said.
Retailers, law enforcement, parents, educators, city and state government all need to work together to watch out for underage drinking, he said.
"It's really easy for an individual to step back and say the underage drinking problem is here and here and here, when actually the biggest problem we're facing with underage drinking is in our own houses," Moser said. "Without that teamwork, coming together as a coalition in a community on all facets _ we do nothing."
Even though a small percentage of underage drinkers get alcohol through retailers, he said 7 percent is still too high.
While liquor retailers have agreed to hand out informational material and have employees wear buttons with alcohol facts, Freudenthal said parents need to take responsibility too.
Since so many kids are getting alcohol right at home, she said it's important for parents to start tackling the problem by locking up the booze.
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