Patriot-News Editorial Board

Local police say we are in the height of the teen alcohol party season.

It goes on from late spring until teens go back to high school and college in early fall each year.

It is an annual problem but during the last two decades, law enforcement officers - with the aid of state laws - have done their part to clamp down.

The sale of alcohol directly to minors has dropped and fines are heftier for those bar owners caught serving underage patrons.

But police will tell you that one haven for underage drinking remains - the teenager's home.

There some can still get booze far too easily from their parents.

Despite liability suits, police crackdowns and tragic stories of teenage deaths due to alcohol poisoning, some moms and dads still supply alcohol to their children and their friends.

Their logic seems to stem from a misguided notion that if the drinking teens are at home and under adult supervision, then it is OK - that it is somehow safer there than if they were out in the woods and drinking at a party.

Unfortunately, they could not be more wrong.

Some of those teens later drive away drunk from the house party or drink a lot more than the "supervising" parent is aware of and become ill or worse.

Police have reported breaking up parties across the state in homes where parents were present.

At at least one party a beer bong - a device that allows drinkers to consume a lot of beer in a short time - was being used.

A 2005 study conducted by the American Medical Association reported that about one-third of all teens said it was easy to obtain alcohol from their parents. That figure jumps to 40 percent when it comes to getting alcohol from a friend's parent. In addition, one out of four teens said he had attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents.

Problems also occur if one parent says "no" to serving alcohol while their child's friends' parents do not. Studies show that when another says "yes" then the teens who want to drink hang out at that house.

Pennsylvania is throwing a spotlight on the problem as it seems to be growing. State and community-funded campaigns, including new billboards and posters in public places, warn parents they will be prosecuted if they supply alcohol to minors.

During the last 10 years, 35 states, including Pennsylvania, have passed social host laws that make adults criminally and civilly liable when they provide alcohol to minors and the result is a death or injury. Our state goes even further by holding adults accountable when they fail to halt underage drinking in their homes.

The penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to $300. Some parents could even find themselves facing prison sentences.

Parents might think they are acting in the role of friends by supplying alcohol to their kids and their friends, but, in truth, they are sending a terrible message and setting up a situation that could end in tragedy.

No one can ignore the consequences of playing host to underage drinking parties.

The epidemic of binge drinking during the high school and college years will only go unchecked unless an intolerance starts at home.

? 2010

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