Preventing Underage Alcohol Purchases

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

There will never be enough additional Alcohol Law Enforcement agents hired to prevent underage alcohol purchases, says an official of the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agency. That's a tacit acknowledgement that the problem can never be solved by hiring ever more agents. 1

On the other hand, Alaska has thought creatively and implemented an economic incentive to reduce underage alcohol purchases. State law now permits an alcohol licensee to post a notice of the fact and to impose a civil penalty of $1,000 on any minor who illegally attempts to buy alcohol in that establishment. A small claims action can be taken against a minor who refuses to pay.

There is now a strong economic incentive to catch underage persons attempting to make an illegal purchase. The employee who confiscates the false ID typically gets a third of the fine, while the licensee keeps the remainder. One bar in Anchorage seizes an average of six IDs per week. The three or four doormen at this establishment who divide the typical $2,000 per week bounty are highly motivated to enforce the law. 2

This law enforcement occurs at no cost to the licensees or to other taxpayers. It is borne entirely by underage minors who deliberately violate the law and jeopardize the licenses of those from whom they attempt to buy alcohol.

Alaska, the last frontier, is at the cutting edge of innovative thinking to solve this difficult law enforcement problem.


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