More Pennsylvanians under 21 consume alcohol than the national average, according to a report released by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on underage and dangerous drinking habits.
According to the biennial report, almost 75 percent of Pennsylvania high school students reported consuming alcohol in their lifetimes, compared to 68 percent nationwide. However, the same group engages in less “binge drinking” than the average. The study defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks in a row. Bethany Gardner, director for Bureau of Alcohol Education at the PLCB, says the report shows positive and negative trends for Pennsylvania. She pointed out that the report contains details about the various programs the state supports to curb underage drinking.
“We definitely are showing in relationships with other state agencies that we are collaborating,” Gardner said, “but we also see from nationwide information as well that there are a lot of areas of risk that we do need to address.”
According to the report, the PLCB provides roughly $1 million in grants to organizations and programs such as a resident assistant training program for universities.
Gardner said the availability of alcohol in Pennsylvania is a factor in the high underage drinking rate.
Gardner said the PLCB requires wine and spirit stores, as well as bars and beer distributors, to have high compliance rates in preventing underage people from buying alcohol. However, according to the report, this does not prevent the underage from obtaining alcohol. More than 90 percent of underage drinkers say they get their alcohol for free, and almost half get it from a family member or their home.
“One of the areas that we actually stated is with our parents,” Gardner said. “We’re doing a lot with teachers and with the other stakeholders that do the same type of work that we do, but it’s hard to get to the parents.”
The report also includes results from the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey, which analyzes the drinking habits of students at two and four year colleges and universities. Pennsylvania college students are less likely to have consumed alcohol in the last thirty days than the national average and are less likely to have driven a car while under the influence of alcohol.
Gardner says despite the low compliance with Pennsylvania’s drinking age, she thinks the problem can be lessened.
“I don’t think it’s a losing battle,” Gardner said.