'We Don't Serve Teens'

January 27, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Sherri Pennington estimates three people per week attempt to purchase alcohol with improper identification at the liquor store she and her husband, C.B. "Butch" Pennington, own off Winchester Avenue near Martinsburg.

"If we're in doubt of any ID, we don't sell to anyone, period," Pennington said Friday.

Employees at Penn Liquors are trained to detect a fake identification card, she said, and also have behind-the-counter visual aids to be sure a customer is at least 21 years old.

On Friday, Pennington hosted members of the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (ABCA) and The Century Council, a not-for-profit organization funded by the nation's leading distillers, to help launch "We Don't Serve Teens," a public awareness campaign to prevent underage drinking.

"Of course we're concerned," said Pennington of her seven grandchildren's potential exposure to underage drinking scenarios. "If they go to parties, is there going to be alcohol there?"


How the alcohol gets there, at least at college parties, is through a student who is at least 21 and makes the purchase, said Barbara Byers, Shepherd University's director of counseling, who also attended the press conference.

Byers said the university was fortunate that average binge drinking levels last were measured to be 3 percent lower than the national average, and that underage drinking by students in the last 30 days was down 14 percent.

"It's still a battle," Byers said.

At the beginning of the fall semester last year, Byers said the university launched a monthly, late-night weekend event at the student center to discourage students from drinking.

The center is open on a Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m., and college officials have staged a chili cook-off, Dance Dance Revolution competition and other games, Byers said.

"We actually did a (root beer) kegger party," Byers said. "There's always a DJ."

Before showing a public service announcement that will be broadcast on area television stations, Erik Strickland of The Century Council noted statistics show nearly 17 percent of adults believe it is acceptable for parents to provide alcohol to their teenagers in their own home.

"It is our hope this campaign will encourage parents to start and continue a dialogue with their teen about the dangers of underage drinking," Strickland said Friday in a press release. "Turning a blind eye is as irresponsible as putting a drink in their hands."

Gary L. "Gig" Robinson II, supervisor of education and prevention efforts for the ABCA, noted that federal statistics show 27 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 have consumed alcohol in the last 30 days.

"It takes a community to save a child," Robinson said in brief remarks, noting the legal ramifications for people who serve alcohol to minors. "The message is clear: We don't serve teens."

The press conference was the third and final event held to promote the public relations campaign in West Virginia, Robinson said.

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