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BATON ROUGE - Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter says a recent baseline study of underage access to alcohol in Louisiana shows that noncompliance with underage drinking laws has dropped to a record low of 7.6 percent. The new study, “2002 Alcohol Baseline Study - Underage Access to Alcohol in Louisiana,” was funded by the United States Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.
Painter says the low noncompliance level means that more than 90 percent of retailers in the state are actively making sure that their employees abide by the letter of the law. He points out that a survey in 1996 revealed that more than half of the businesses in the state that were licensed to sell alcohol failed to abide by the then newly legislated drinking age threshold of 21. He says some licensees were found to be selling alcohol to youths as young as 14 years old.
Painter points out that the first baseline study of underage drinking was conducted in 1998. He adds that this year’s study reveals that violations of underage drinking laws since 1998 have been reduced by 79 percent for businesses whose permits allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed on premises and 65 percent for retailers whose permits do not allow consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises.
Painter says lowering and maintaining the noncompliance level at under 10 percent has been one of the main goals of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. He credits the low noncompliance level to firm but fair enforcement policies, the passage of the 1997 Responsible Vendor Act by the Louisiana Legislature, and the overwhelming support of the alcoholic beverage industries, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association, the Louisiana Retailer Association, the Louisiana Association of Beverage Alcohol Licensees, and the Louisiana Hotel-Motel Association. Mothers Against Drunken Drivers and the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse have also endorsed ATC’s efforts.
Painter says the Responsible Vendor Act, Act 1054 of the 1997 Regular Session of the Legislature, has played an important role in reducing noncompliance with underage drinking laws. The law requires mandatory certification of servers and sellers of alcohol and tobacco products. To receive certification, new employees must attend an approved server-training course within 45 days of the first day of employment.
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