When shoppers in Clinton make their rounds of local stores, stocking up for holiday celebrations, they'll see (amidst the sale signs and ribbons and bows) a different kind of holiday message: a reminder that it's illegal to provide alcohol to minors.
Morgan Peer Advocates, with support from MADD, launched its second Sticker Shock Campaign on Dec. 10 to target area adults who might purchase alcohol legally and provide it to minors. With the support of retailers, warning stickers have popped up all over on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers, hard lemonades, and other "alcopops" known to appeal to minors. In addition to the stickers, stores are also placing prominent signs in their windows.
"The Sticker Shock Campaign is all about raising public awareness and doing it when and where the message really counts-at the retail store at the time of purchase," said Peer Advocate co-facilitator Andrea Kaye. "In Connecticut, adults who provide alcohol to minors can face criminal penalties and civil liability. You can be imprisoned up to 18 months and be fined up to $1,500. If you furnish alcohol to children under age 16, you can be charged with risk of injury to a minor and face a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of $10,000.
"We want this project to send a clear warning to those young adults who are of legal age to purchase alcohol: Furnishing alcohol to minors is a felony," Kaye continued. "Don't let one impulsive act ruin your life."
Clinton Youth & Family Service Bureau Director Barbara Small emphasizes that, while youth are the driving force behind this campaign, the kids aren't the target.
"This program is focused on adults-to not provide alcohol to those under 21," Small said. "We are working very hard to dispel the myth that underage drinking is a rite of passage."
On Dec. 10, teams of involved youth (accompanied by an adult chaperone) placed and provided stickers at Shore Discount Liquors, The Bottle Shop, Glenwood Wine & Spirits, Town and Country Market, ShopRite, and Stop & Shop.
Morgan School Resource Officer Kyle Strunjo noted that most area retail stores were eager to participate.
"Preventing underage drinking is everyone's responsibility. Parents, school personnel, teens, public health agencies, law enforcement, and retail establishments must work together," Strunjo said. "Activities such as this Sticker Shock Campaign shows that teens themselves can be a driving force in stopping underage drinking."
This is the second year that Peer Advocates has conducted this program. Small noted that Clinton is "very fortunate" that almost all the retail liquor outlets have been cooperative this year.
"This is part of a much larger campaign...and involves all sectors of the community," Small said.
"Alcohol consumption is the number-one issue of people under age 24 in the state, it's the number-one issue in Middlesex County, it's the number-one issue in Clinton" for that age group, Small explained, adding, "There's more to underage drinking than just getting drunk. A lot happens when kids are under the influence-there's a rise in fighting, in sexual assault, [and] auto accidents."
No one involved thinks that an issue of that magnitude is going to stop with a sticker, but they do hope to start something-a conversation about adult attitudes.
"Limiting youth access to alcohol is essential if we are to reduce underage drinking. We have the right drinking age and the right laws on the books. We just need to support it in our homes and in our communities by reminding adults of the importance of keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors. Lives depend on it," said Kaye.
For more information about Clinton Youth & Family Services services or to volunteer or be part of a prevention program, call 860-669-1103 or visit www.clintonyouthandfamily.org.