Underage Drinking: A Serious Issue (Opinion)
By Kaitlyn Lewis, Opinion Editor
August 26, 2015
This fall Georgia enacted a law that seemed to lessen the legal penalties for underage drinkers and drunk drivers. Instead of arresting violators, officers will issue citations.
In unique cases arrests can be made, but Code Section 3-3-23 will, for the most part, keep college students out of jail, as the Atlanta-Journal Constitution puts it.
I know that underage drinking is not uncommon among college students, and that there is always a way around the law. However, my distaste for breaking the no-drinking-under-21 law has grown much stronger since I began working as a cashier in a grocery store. The fact that officers have become more tolerant for underage drinking upsets me, because my penalty for selling alcohol to minors is severe. To put it simply: if I sell alcohol to minors, I lose my job, go to jail and get fined; but if a minor illegally drinks or purchases alcohol, he or she only gets a citation.
To clarify, it is not the drinking itself that bothers me, but merely the deception a minor must employ to obtain the alcohol and his or her rebellion that I still do not understand.
I understand college students want to have fun together, and not all of us can drink. But before you try to purchase alcohol with a fake identification card, take a look at this issue from my perspective.
I have been given much responsibility with my job. Not only do I handle customers’ money, but I am also entrusted with the sale of restricted items.
Working in retail means I must constantly be alert. I’m at my register helping a group of college students check out, but an elderly lady interrupts me to ask where she can find the coffee. I tell her to look on isle six and continue scanning items. My supervisor tells me I’m about to go on break soon and oh, there’s that lady who frequently shoplifts. I need to keep an eye on her. My line is filling up fast. Customers are waiting, but I’m still scanning the college students’ groceries. I reach for the next item—a six pack of beer. I stop right there and ask to see their driver’s licenses—all of their driver’s licenses. I’m not taking chances with this. I want to be certain that I am legally selling this six pack to students who are at least 21 years old.
I take the selling of alcohol very seriously, because if I am careless, I will certainly lose my job, and possibly be put in jail and fined up to $1,000. If it is ever found out that alcohol was illegally sold to a minor, the grocery store I work at will lose its liquor license, which will result in thousands of dollars lost in sales.
Furthermore, if alcohol is sold to a minor or someone who is already intoxicated, and he or she becomes involved in a drunk driving accident, the store and the cashier may be held liable for damage and lives lost, according to the Dram Shop Act in Georgia.
As a grocery store employee, I am constantly reminded of the strict rules for selling restricted items like alcohol and the penalties for ignoring them. I took a class that instructed me on how I should sell alcohol, but all the information is readily available to me in the employee handbook I received when I was hired.
On our side, the responsibility and penalty hanging over our heads is much more intense than the legal consequences hanging over a minor’s head. If anything, it should be the other way around since the minor is the one who actually intends to break the law.
Occasionally, I come across customers with suspicious identification cards. Usually these customers come up with an excuse to leave the store before I ask for the manager. It upsets me, though, because I do not think they realize the potential consequences of their decisions.
In my opinion, Georgia should not take underage drinking so lightly. I believe both stores and customers should be held to the same standards when it comes to purchasing restricted items such as alcohol.