News Release


DATE: April 16, 2008

CONTACT: Steve Schmidt, 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108 



SAN DIEGO – In an effort to curb underage drinking and avoid potential tragedies, County of San Diego officials are urging parents to monitor their children’s activities during prom and graduation season, when underage drinking tends to increase.

Vice-Chairwoman Dianne Jacob joined Chairman Greg Cox and Jean Shepard, Director of the County’s Health and Human Services Agency, as well as several teens and parents outside the County Administration Center to talk about how some teens are able to resist the pressure to drink by making the “right choices.”

County leaders also announced the number of young people in the past two years who had alcohol in their systems at the time of their death. Last year, 32 young people under the age of 21 had alcohol in their systems when they died. In 2006, there were 30 alcohol-related deaths. These figures only include the young people who died under special circumstances and required an autopsy. Their ages ranged from 15 - 20 years of age and alcohol levels varied from .02 to .44.

“Underage drinking is not a rite of passage. It’s important for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives and communicate openly about the dangers of alcohol,” said Vice Chairwoman Jacob. “It’s important to let our children be who they want to be but always know where they are and what they’re doing.”

While alcohol continues to be the drug of choice for teenagers, the reality is that the majority of young people do not drink. Nationally, sixty nine percent of underage teens choose to stay away from booze.

“Teens hear about alcohol on the radio. They see it on television, in magazines and the internet. They see it at home. Young people are bombarded by images that promote alcohol,” said Jean Shepard. “However, the majority of minors do not drink. They should be applauded for making the right choice.”

It is against the law for young people to drink, yet more than 13 million of the nation’s 113 million drinkers are underage. Statistics show that one-third of 6th and 9th graders get alcohol from their own homes. Minors also get alcohol from older friends and siblings, from the internet, from adults who are willing to buy it for them, and by using fake identification to purchase booze in the store.

Sixteen cities and all unincorporated areas within the County of San Diego are addressing the problem with “social host” ordinances, making it illegal to host underage drinking parties. Providing alcohol to minors at parties, gatherings or events on private property is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000, six months in jail or both.

People with alcohol or drug addictions can access help by calling the County of San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (800) 479-3339.