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Laws against kids drinking may toughen


Officials in Fayette County are considering whether to join other communities around the state in toughening penalties for adults who encourage underage drinking.

Ruth Staten, a member of a Fayette County panel looking at the issue, says the idea is to discourage adults from allowing youngsters to drink alcohol at parties or on their property.

“It only takes one parent in a community to set up a situation where kids are allowed to be in very risky situations with alcohol,” Staten said.

Currently, eight other towns in Kentucky have enacted what are called a social host ordinances. Authorities in western Kentucky’s Hancock County imposed such an ordinance last year, while officials in the central Kentucky county of Marion are currently considering a similar plan.

Nationwide, 150 cities or counties in 21 states have implemented social host ordinances, which target adults who allow minors to consume alcohol. There are 23 states with similar statewide laws, Stacy Saetta, a researcher with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said.

Officials in Fayette County have been considering the proposal since December as part of a subcommittee related to the Mayor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse.

Saetta said adults sometimes believe drinking at home is safer for some teens than at unsupervised parties.

“But, unfortunately, not every key gets taken, and kids still leave,” Saetta said.

Elizabeth Poindexter, a 17- year-old junior at Henry Clay, said she regularly hears of teenagers drinking alcohol at parties.

“It wouldn’t be too hard to find a friend whose parents either have it so you can sneak into their supply, or their parents would get it,” said Poindexter, a member of the local Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.

Lexington Police Lt. David Lyons said existing laws have helped authorities charge adults who furnish alcohol at parties for underage drinkers. Lexington police are neutral on the proposed new ordinance.

Officials on the committee are looking to push the issue over the next two years after making community presentations.

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