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Drinking is an adult privilege. It is illegal in California for anyone under 21 to drink or buy alcoholic beverages. While the majority of teens to not drink, most are faced with the opportunity and many fail to resist peer pressure to drink. Parents need to teach their children about the effects, dangers, and possible consequences of drinking, and should try to discourage it altogether. Drinking loosens inhibitions and leads to bad judgments that can result in traffic accidents with serious injuries, costly civil litigation, social embarrassment, hefty legal fines, college probation or loss of scholarships, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and various criminal acts.

Parents are the single most important influence on children’s decision whether or not to drink. If you drink you should:

  • Drink in moderation.
  • Keep track of any alcoholic beverages kept at home.
  • Have non-alcoholic beverages available at home.
  • Never drive after drinking.
  • Teach your children that it is not necessary to drink to have a good time.

If you do allow your minor children to drink at home, make sure it in moderation and closely supervised. And remember, San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) Sec. 56.62 makes it unlawful to permit any other minors to consume alcoholic beverages in your home. First-time violations of this ordinance are punishable by a mandatory minimum fine of $100 plus statutory penalty assessments. The fine is $200 for second and subsequent offenses. Then if you permit your child or another child under the age of 18 to drink at your home, under California Business and Professions Code Sec. 25658.2 you would be punished by a term not to exceed one year in a county jail, or a fine not exceeding $1000, or both if all of the following occur: (1) your child or another underage person has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05 or greater, (2) you knowingly permit your child or another underage person to drive a vehicle after leaving your home, and (3) your child or other underage person is found to have caused a traffic collision while driving the vehicle. And after January 1, 2011, under Assembly Bill (AB) 2486, known as the Teen Alcohol Safety Act of 2010, a parent will also be subject to civil liability when they serve alcohol to minors in their home if that is found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death to a third person. Social hosts will no longer be immune from liability when they serve alcohol to minors.

Parents should always talk openly with their children about alcohol use and abuse. When they go out you should always ask the following six "W" questions: Where are you going? Why are you going there? Who are you going to be with? What are you going to do? Will there be alcoholic beverages? When will you be home? And when they return you should discuss how they handled the situation if any underage drinking was involved and how they should handle it in the future. If you think your child has or may be developing an alcohol problem you can call San DiegoYouth Services at (619) 325-4696 for information and help.

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