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The ongoing accountability question for alcohol and minors

by AirTalk®

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Virginia Recchi, 16, Violante Pasolini, 17, (front C) and Ludovica Lombardini, 17, sit as they have a drink in a square June 17, 2004 in Rome, Italy. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

The coastal Orange County city of Laguna Beach this week joined a list of about 100 other California communities when their City Council approved a measure that would penalize parents who allow minors to use alcohol and drugs in their homes.

The fact that the new law – commonly known as a social host ordinance – does not discriminate whether or not the parents are aware of the activity of the minors prompted some residents to voice opposition, with some residents complaining to the City Council that the law would allow some parents to break the law by serving alcohol to minors in their homes at the same time that parents who were unaware underage drinking was taking place could face punishment and fines.

In some cultures it is more commonplace for minors to consume a glass of wine at a family meal, but America has typically taken a more puritanical approach to alcohol in general. Most countries allow their residents to purchase and consume alcohol at the age of 18, and some allow parents more leeway to determine what’s appropriate in their household.

In the U.S., the nationwide legal drinking age is 21, but ongoing problems of binge drinking and drug use still permeate our society. At California’s Chico State University, the school recently suspended all sorority and fraternity activity this week after a student died of alcohol poisoning after consuming 21 shots on his 21st birthday.

Is more tolerance or more legislation the better way to address the abuse of alcohol and drugs in our society? Who is ultimately accountable for how parents address the serving of alcohol in their homes?


Laurie Levenson, professor of Law, Loyola Law School and a former federal prosecutor

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