Preventing Alcohol Sales to Minors

underage drinking
In order to prevent underage drinking, the Guide to Community Preventive Services recommends enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors. Law enforcement agencies, including the NYPD and the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), use underage “decoys” to conduct “compliance checks,” testing whether stores will sell alcohol to people under 21. In 2014, the SLA created a dedicated unit to investigate and document underage sales by licensed retailers in New York City. Between April and September, the SLA conducted over 1000 compliance checks in 911 pharmacies, grocery stores and liquor stores throughout the five boroughs. This reflects 10 percent of New York City stores licensed to sell alcohol. More than half (58%) of the stores sold to the underage buyers. During this investigation, stores with previous violations were less likely to sell than stores without recent citations (43% vs 55%). Recently cited stores were also more likely to check ID than those without a recent violation (56% vs 43%).

In response to this investigation, the Health Department is sponsoring Alcohol Training Awareness Programs (ATAP) for stores that sell alcohol. This training program equips participants with skills, such as recognizing fake IDs and managing conflict to maintain a safe environment, which will help reduce the frequency of sales to underage buyers. Participants also learn about their legal right to refuse sales and the financial benefits of avoiding underage sales. They will get a certificate of completion that can be used as an affirmative defense for businesses cited by the SLA for three years, as well as written materials in English, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese. Training will be available for speakers of languages other than English as needed.

In a letter to all New York City stores licensed to sell beer, wine, or liquor, Commissioner Bassett requests their help in reducing the negative consequences of underage drinking. The letter includes information about the negative effects of underage drinking and encourages retailers to ensure that IDs are checked during alcohol purchases and to seek additional training to help staff recognize fake IDs.

Caring adults throughout NYC are urged to help prevent underage access to alcohol. If you see a store selling to minors, call 311 to report it. Share the following video and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

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Read the Press Release