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New Campaign, Lifeline Law To Combat Underage Drinking

Indiana liquor stores and alcohol distributors are partnering on a new campaign to combat underage drinking called 'We Don’t Serve Teens.'

The campaign's goal will be to educate minors about the dangers of underage drinking.

Photo: William Murphy (Flickr)

The campaign's goal will be to educate minors about the dangers of underage drinking.

The We Don’t Serve Teens campaign includes signs and posters in stores and bars and increased promotion on industry websites.

Liquor stores will include informational cards hung on liquor bottles promoting Indiana’s Lifeline law, which provides immunity from underage drinking charges for minors who seek medical or police help for someone else in trouble.

Big Red Liquors representative Matt Bell says the alcohol provider industry is committed to curbing the problem – but notes there’s only so much they can do.

“It’s through friends, it’s through adults, it’s through parents and it’s through parents’ friends,” he says. “So the legislature has now created penalties for an adult who would knowingly and willingly provide that alcohol.  We think that’s a great step forward.”

Bell says part of the campaign will be to educate about the dangers of underage drinking, noting that one in four Hoosiers between the ages of 12 and 20 report having alcohol in the last month, while one in six say they’ve engaged in binge drinking.

Attorney General To Promote Expansion To State’s Lifeline Law

Attorney General Greg Zoeller and State Senator Jim Merritt will be touring Indiana high schools and colleges again this year promoting an expansion to the state’s Lifeline law.

Zoeller says, when trying to combat underage drinking, toughening penalties doesn’t always provide an answer. Zoeller uses the example of a recent effort to crack down on beer kegs at college parties.

“Now it’s shifted where people are buying half-gallons of vodka or some type of pure-grain alcohol and they mix it up into these big batches, which is actually more dangerous than the beer that we got out of these parties,” he says.

The original Lifeline law provided immunity from underage drinking charges for minors that seek medical attention for other drunk minors.

Based on feedback from students they talked with in awareness events around the state, Zoeller and Merritt crafted an expansion approved by the General Assembly this year.  The law now provides the same immunity for underage drinkers that seek police or medical help for any reason.

But students who testified at the Statehouse in support of the expansion say awareness of the law is still a major barrier to its effectiveness.  Zoeller says student involvement in creating the expansion will help increase awareness.

“Not only is this the right thing to do but their voice can be heard in the legislature and they can be leaders among their own peers,” he says.

Merritt says young people also still have a lack of trust for law enforcement.

“We are doing our very best to make sure that all law enforcement officers, all EMTs, everyone understands this law,” he says. “And it needs to be reinforced with those that are on both sides of the crisis.”

Merritt says with prom season beginning, he’s going around to high schools to promote Lifeline. And he and Zoeller are working with colleges to increase awareness of the law during freshman orientations this fall.

Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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