Underage Drinking

The use of alcohol by people under the age of 21 is unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable.

Unsafe

Alcohol is a factor in the deaths of more than 4,300 youth and young adults each year.

  • 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
  • 1,269 from homicides
  • 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning
  • 492 from suicides

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

There are many myths about alcohol use. Get the facts.

Unhealthy

Brain development is not complete until an individual is well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter the development of the brain. Youth and young adults who drink are more likely to have behavioral problems in school. These issues may lead to poor academic performance, suspensions, and expulsions. People who start drinking before the age of 15 are more likely to have an alcohol use disorder later in life.

There are many myths about alcohol use. Get the facts.

Unacceptable

People under the age of 21 caught drinking alcohol and/or buying or attempting to buy alcohol may be fined up to $500. First-time offenders also face a suspension of their driver's license.

People under the age of 21 may drink alcohol when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse age 21 or older.

Adults may be fined up to $500 for failing to take action to prevent illegal drinking by people under the age of 21. Adults who illegally provide alcohol to people under the age of 21 may be fined up to $500.

There are many myths about alcohol use. Get the facts.

What can adults do to prevent underage drinking?

There are many ways to prevent underage drinking. One strategy is to address the acceptability, availability, attractiveness, and affordability of alcohol in your home and community.

Acceptability

Acceptability refers to the community's culture, perceptions, values, and norms about the use of alcohol. Alcohol consumption in Wisconsin is higher than other states. Because alcohol consumption is considered part of the fabric of daily living here, it is more likely that if they have the opportunity, minors will drink.

What can you do?

  • Talk to minors about the dangers of underage drinking.
  • Establish and enforce rules prohibiting alcohol use by minors.
  • Encourage college students to host parties without alcohol.

Resources

Affordability

Affordability refers to the price of alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most affordable addictive drugs.

What can you do?

  • Talk with local, state, and federal policymakers about ways to make alcohol less affordable.
  • Encourage business owners to discontinue "buy one, get one free" offers and similar pricing promotions.

Attractiveness

Attractiveness refers to the positive image of alcohol use often portrayed in the marketing of alcohol products. In Wisconsin, alcohol advertising is visible in places where youth and and young adults easily see it.

What can you do?

  • Talk with local policymakers about bans on alcohol advertising on buses, at parks, and in other public spaces.
  • Tell youth and young adults that deciding not to drink alcohol is a healthy choice.

Resources

Availability

Availability refers to the ease and convenience of obtaining alcohol. In Wisconsin, cities, villages, and towns have a significant amount of control over local availability.

What can you do?

  • Talk with local policymakers about making age-compliance checks of alcohol retailers a routine practice.
  • Talk with local policymakers about increasing enforcement against alcohol retailers who sell to minors.
  • Attend community meetings regarding applications to sell and/or serve alcohol and express concerns about the impact of another alcohol establishment.

Resources

Most youth and young adults in Wisconsin get their alcohol either from their homes or the homes of their friends. Adults should always store their alcohol in a locked area.

Last Revised: July 23, 2018