UNDERAGED teens who had planned to party the night away and get drunk at this summer’s popular all-inclusive parties, got a sobering sip of reality when they were ‘carded’, or required to show identification proving they were of legal drinking age.
For the first time, patrons of both the ATI and Dream Weekend parties were required to show national ID, passport or driver’s licences to gain access. They were also required to show identification when purchasing admission tickets. Only persons who could prove that they were 18 years and older received the “I am legal” armband that provided access to the events and their overflowing bars.
For the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) it was a powerful step in its fight to curb underage drinking.
“The enforcement of the age limit was done, so we consider it a huge success,” said Daniel Brown, the NCDA’s field officer for Kingston and St Andrew.
“I really want to commend the promoters for actually enforcing the ‘no underage drinking’ policy,” Brown said.
There remain some other concerns for the NCDA however, as teens found other parties with fewer restrictions to attend.
The promoters of these smaller, lower profile events, he added, will be targetted in the expansion phase of the NCDA’s project, starting with the parties now being planned for National Heroes Weekend in Negril and Ocho Rios.
The plan is to extend the agency’s reach and message by offering on-the-spot recuperative services for those who may have overindulged in alcohol.
“We will, hopefully, be having a detox booth at these parties, where the party-goers can come and relax for a while with a cup of coffee, or soup, a little counselling, or something,” he said.
The NCDA and the National Road Safety Council have been sharing booths at these parties over the summer as they try to stamp their presence and reduce the risk of alcoholinduced injury and death.
Brown said the use of the NCDA’s alcohol risk-asessment cards under its ‘What’s in my cup’ promotion, also seemed to be of some help to patrons.
“We pass these around at the parties. It shows how at risk the patrons are, based on their level of inebriation. We have three levels; Green, Yellow and Orange. We ask you some questions and you might fall into a certain category. We had persons come by and fill out the cards and when they saw their risk, they went and got their friends to come and do their assessment,” said Brown.
“We are not trying to tell anybody not to drink, just don’t drink so much you get drunk and you can’t remember if you even enjoyed yourself at the party,” Brown insisted.
He noted that there was no empirical data collated at the parties, but the NCDA found that most persons tested in the Yellow zone for alcohol risk. According to the cards, those in the Yellow zone are deemed to be at risk for harming themselves and others.
In the meantime, the NCDA’s Executive Director Michael Tucker wants those establishments that allow alcohol to be sold to minors to be prosecuted and penalised.
His recommendation is that anyone who is caught selling alcohol to a minor should have heir licence revoked. “Once there is a threat of removing their opportunity to earn money, that is when they will listen,” said Tucker.
He said it was something the NCDA is preparing to place before the legislature for serious consideration.
“We take it very lightly, you know, but when you can be as irresponsible as to give a youngster excessive amounts of alcohol, and that youngster gets into a car, kills him or herself, and the others in that car, and also may kill somebody else, who is responsible for that and how can a parent be compensated for the life of the child or children who have died?” he asked.
He noted that even bartenders are supposed to be trained to know when to refuse an inebriated customer alcohol, but not even this, he said, is being done.