Underage Drinking

In Massachusetts, drinking while still in high school is a common problem: about 314,000 teens said they drank each year. In 2007, teens drank 15.4 percent of all alcohol sold in the state that year. This amounted to $748 million in sales and $367 million in alcohol industry profits. Underage drinking can contribute to homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence.   

Legal issues and consequences

It is illegal for anyone under age 21 to have alcohol, buy or sell alcohol, use a fake ID to obtain alcohol, or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. Penalties for motor vehicle operation while intoxicated or impaired include arrest, fines, license suspension, and possible jail time. Other charges that happen in tandem with alcohol use can include refusing to take a Breathalyzer test, having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle to endanger, leaving the scene of an accident when someone has been injured, and motor vehicle homicide.

Problems and costs associated with underage drinking

Massachusetts taxpayers paid $1.5 billion in 2007 for issues related to underage drinking, including medical attention, missed employment, pain and suffering. For medical care and lost work alone, it cost $445 million each year.  In particular, underage drinking led to violence, underage traffic crashes, risky sexual encounters, property crimes, injuries, poisonings and psychoses, fetal alcohol syndrome in babies born to mothers aged 15-20, and alcohol treatment programs, all for youth.
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