Switching to stronger stuff

Remember the underage beer party last month on the Columbia-Lincoln county line?


And remember the outrage you likely felt after learning that the reckless act of giving teenagers alcohol is only a misdemeanor in Georgia on the first offense?

Laws around here aren't tough enough when it comes to underage drinking. That applies to both sides of the Savannah River.

On the Georgia side, illegally providing alcohol gets the offender a maximum $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail - and that's on the first two offenses! Helping kids drink clearly is child endangerment, and that's why Georgia's third-offense felony punishment for this - $1,000 to $3,000 fine, and one to three years in jail - is much more befitting this crime.

On the South Carolina side, state lawmakers are working to toughen penalties through the proposed Prevention of Underage Drinking and Access to Alcohol Act - and there are many things to like in it.

The bill ups fines and introduces jail time of up to 30 days for underage possession or even attempting to buy or drink beer or wine. And for liquor? A $200 to $300 fine, and up to 30 days in jail, or both. It still falls well below Georgia's maximum for the same offense, but boosting the penalty is at least a start.

The proposed legislation also would register beer kegs, so authorities can trace them back to where they were purchased, and find out who bought them.

There are still kinks to work out, which is why the bill is back in subcommittee. But this bill could not be more important.

It would save South Carolinians so much money. Underage drinking and the costs associated with its effects - law enforcement, medical care, addiction treatment - costs taxpayers more than $837 million a year.

More importantly, it would save lives. Fewer kids drinking means fewer drunken drivers on the road. And fewer tragedies.

Hammer out the kinks and move this bill forward.



Fri, 12/15/2017 - 23:42

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