By Lauren Wanko
Teens want Bobkat Liquors customers to get sticker shock, but not because of the prices. They’re plastering neon green signs on cases of beer, wine and liquor to remind people of the dangers of buying alcohol for minors.
“It’s saying don’t forget this is the law and you have the choice. And if you make that choice, this is what can happen to you,” said Jane Taylor, prevention specialist for The Southwest Council Inc.
Up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine and the potential of getting sued.
“People perceive that alcohol is legal so they perceive the risk as low,” Taylor said.
When asked if adults come and try to buy alcohol for minors, Bobkat Manager Brian Huntley said, “All the time. The cool parent or the cool aunt or uncle that comes in and then they allow them to walk around the store and then we card everybody and they get upset that we don’t allow the sale.”
The Gloucester Regional Addictive Substances Prevention Coalition, or GRASP, has formed a team of teens who’ve participated in about 25 sticker shock campaigns since 2009. GRASP is part of The Southwest Council — a non-profit that provides substance abuse services to Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties.
When asked if there a lot of teens who are drinking underage, Pitman High School senior Giavanni Rizzo said, “Yes. It’s actually a very big problem. I know most of my friends or colleagues that do drink and smoke weed.”
“I see it all over my Twitter feeds, my Facebook feeds. Party tonight and bring your own alcohol, alcohol will be provided,” said Gateway Regional High School junior Julie Weikart.
Sixteen-year-old Domenica Castro says lots of teens don’t care about the consequences or risks of drinking.
“It really affects their overall performance in school and then extracurriculars and then eventually their lives if it gets out of hand,” she said.
Donna Gaudio counsels high school students.
“Probably about 30 percent of the kids that I see have some sort of substance use going on, either use themself or use inside the home,” the Williamstown High School student assistances coordinator said.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates by age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink.
As for when kids start drinking alcohol in the Garden State, Southwest Council Prevention Programs Director Janine Fabrizio said, “Studies are indicating in the state of New Jersey that youth are taking their first drink by the age of 12.”
These students think it’s important the message comes from teens.
“When they hear an adult say it, it sounds like a PSA and like it’s more effective when teens, their peers, say it,” Gateway junior Leah Cohen said.
School administrator Shea Murray thinks underage drinking is a community issue.
“It’s not just a school issue and it’s not just a student issue. Everyone has to be involved to help make the change,” the Pitman assistant principal said.
These students are determined to make that change. Throughout the holiday season, The Southwest Council is planning up to 10 Sticker Shock campaigns throughout the region.