Given that this publication is targeted directly and only to the “legal” demographic, this commentary will explore the harms of adults serving alcohol to minors. The psychological and physical risks involved with underage drinking are well documented with problems ranging from early dependency, alcohol poisoning, brain damage, impaired judgment and physical development issues. But, instructing a child not to do something risky, will in many cases only serve to arouse their natural curiosity.
According to the Children’s Bill (2012), a child can be reprimanded by the police with a simple warning if caught in possession of alcohol. The penalty for an adult who serves the alcohol to a minor, however, is much more severe. Thus, this article is targeted to adults, who may or may not have made the grave error of serving alcohol to a child under 18. Needless to say, certain laws are viewed with a laissez faire attitude by regular citizens, especially laws which are left unenforced.
In fact, outspoken T&T Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith recently said, “It is rare in this country to see bartenders demanding a form of ID from anyone who may be perceived to be a minor, prior to serving them alcohol.” Griffith sought to remind the public of the laws of the land, which state: “A person who knowingly sells or allows another person to sell intoxicating liquor to a child under the age of eighteen years, whether for the child’s own use or not, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction for a first offence to a fine of $7,500.00, and in the case of a second offence to a fine of $10,000.00, and to a term of imprisonment for one year and in the case of a third or subsequent offence to a fine of $15,000.00 and to a term of imprisonment for two years.”
His statements resounded. However, the limited resources available to the authorities will unlikely result in the complete eradication of this practice, which is why it is imperative for adults to understand the dangers of serving alcohol from both a legal standpoint and a moral one. The obvious danger with serving alcohol to minors is that both children and teenagers have a much lower tolerance for alcohol than adults and as such are at much greater risk of suffering from alcohol poisoning or other direct or indirect injury to the body, even with what an adult might consider a “small amount.” Then there’s the serious moral dilemma: facilitating the inebriation of a minor is leaving a minor vulnerable to physical abuse, sexual abuse, accidents and countless other harmful situations. It is not particularly uncommon for an adult to permit the use of or give a child alcohol with a firm belief that it is a means of encouraging responsible or controlled drinking, but this could not be further from reality.
Impressionable juveniles are often over-confident in their abilities and would often, if given the chance, test their limits to a dangerous level. Studies strongly suggest that minors who receive alcohol from their parents, guardians or others responsible for their welfare, have higher rates of alcoholism during these developing years and especially later in life. According to the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “youths who start drinking before the age of 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after 21 years.”
Alcohol is an addictive substance and the trend of binge drinking, which is more popular among teenagers, serves as a more dangerous form of consumption to the developing brain. Save the medical parlance, another study showed a direct correlation between heavy drinking (20 drinks or more per week) in adolescents and changes in the frontal cortex of the brain, leading to decreased cognitive function, memory, attention span and spatial skills.
The issue is certainly contentious but there is a firm view by many that alcohol is a gateway drug of sorts. While this remains debatable, another study from the University of Florida did show that preventing children from consuming alcohol and delaying its use into adulthood considerably reduces their chances of becoming addicted to other drugs.
There is nothing constructive about serving alcohol to minors and we humbly encourage adults to remember their role in paving the way for responsible and healthy adults of tomorrow.