Lisa Foley: Pass host ordinance


— It is not a myth that when it comes to tackling our health problems, knowledge is power. The following are some national statistics from the surgeon general about underage drinking in America:

- On average, young people have about five drinks on a single occasion. This is called binge drinking.

- Of adults who started drinking before age 15, about 40 percent have signs of alcohol dependence. That rate is four times higher than that for adults who did not drink until they turned 21.

- Approximately 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have used alcohol at least once. By age 13, the number doubles. By age 15, approximately 50 percent have had at least one drink.

- By the age of 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink.

- Each year, approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; 1,000 deaths from motor vehicles, 1,600 as a result of homicides; 300 from suicide; and hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns and drownings.

We know in Routt County, specifically Steamboat Springs, that our 2006 baseline data was alarming within the underage drinking population.

- 54 percent of Steamboat Springs High School students reported using alcohol once or more within the past month.

- 40 percent of SSHS students reported getting drunk once or more within the past 14 days.

- 42 percent of SSHS students reported traveling with a driver who had been drinking.

- 74 percent of SSHS students reported attending one or more parties within the past year where kids their age were drinking.

As a community, we are striving to implement a primary strategy for deterring underage drinking. It is a social host liability ordinance. What's that, you ask?

The ordinance refers to laws that hold non-commercial individuals responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease or otherwise control. Social host ordinances really target people who are providing the venue where underage drinking takes place.

It's no secret where these places are in our rural community. Whether it's a bonfire at someone's ranch in a secluded, wooded area, a high school senior's home while parents are away, a college dorm room, or a rented condominium, our youths have access to alcohol and are abusing it. These gatherings are particularly problematic because of the number of drinkers involved and the large quantity of alcohol consumed. All-too-common results from these gatherings are community disturbances, sexual assaults, alcohol poisonings, traffic accidents, property damage, suicide and violent activities.

Routt County is hoping to be the first county in Colorado to implement and enforce such a law. I encourage you to have community discussions with your region to bring this ordinance to your town. I believe that everyone in the community should deliver the message that it is not OK for underage drinking to happen. All communities have within themselves the ability to work together and create an environment for their younger population to grow up and feel good about themselves without drinking. There are many different social host ordinance models available. Choose one that meets the needs of your community and its underage drinking epidemic. Make a difference.

Lisa Foley

Steamboat Springs Mental Health


bigfatdog 8 years, 6 months ago

and you think a Steamboat Springs ordinance is going to change this social problem? Wake up people and take responsibility!Education is the key NOT bringing more government into our households and specifically a law that will never be help up in a colorado court. take this same time and put it into community education. Social Ordinance is a big waste of time and this movement should be utilizing a different philosophy for this cause. Statistics show 90% of young adult, under and just over the age of 21, binge drinkers were those that never learned the realities of alcohol/drug awareness from their parents/families. Parents need to do their job as our government will fail in this arena.


escortalex 8 years, 6 months ago

Hi Dog...Actually, social hosts ordinances have passed constitutional muster in every state where they've been implemented.

And they've been proven to reduce underage drinking parties. Yes, parents need to do their job. Parents have a right (and a responsibility) to teach their children responsible drinking habits. In many states, it's legal for minors to drink under their parents supervision, on private property.

But your neighbor, or a frat boy, or some random predator does not have the right to provide alcohol or a venue for underage drinking. Social host ordinances PROTECT a parent's right to decide how their children access alcohol, and learn to drink responsibly.

Finally, when parents can drill the "don't drink 'til your 21" message into their kids' heads...but when junior is at someone else's house, and Uncle Chester says it's okay for kids to drink, there's some seriously mixed messaging happening.

Telefly, please check the details of the ordinance. It only holds the party host (who is on site) responsible...NOT an absentee landlord, school official or parent. Kid throws party where other kids drink, kid gets citation. Party in your dorm room? Here's your citation. It's about the HOST, no one else.

Social Host ordinances close a loophole. Often, when cops bust a party, all the minors are ticketed for drinking. But the party host is not punished, or perhaps is written up for a noise violation. The fine is relatively low, and does NOT deter that person from hosting another party. And another. And another. Throw one good kegger, charge a five dollar cover, and you can cover the rent, and pay the loud party fine from last month. Find a cop whose beat includes a party house...ask the officer how many times they have to go back to the same house...and whether the existing laws are stopping underage drinking.

The host is not held accountable for underage drinking...and it's nearly impossible for police to prove who provided the alcohol to the minors.

Blah, blah, blah..sorry for the long ramble.


ybul 8 years, 6 months ago

Is not there a law on the books about contributing to the delinquency of a minor already? Would this not apply, and accomplish the same goal...

It seems to me from my childhood that people went to houses that were empty to have a beer, drank out of the back of a car more frequently at some deserted park.

Fear is what got us into the war in Iraq, do we really need to waste effort on trying to crack down on people who are already breaking the law. Or should we work towards trying to improve the conditions that drive kids to drink.

Peer Pressure... a study I heard about stated that more than 400 or 500 teenagers can not be controlled by any number of adults, so why do we build our schools so large? Also, I have heard that in K-8 schools the older kids are less likely to get in trouble as their teachers from their formative years are present. Maybe their are better ways of addressing the problem, as we already have laws that do not allow the behavior that you are trying to outlaw, again.

You are treating symptoms as all politicians do as opposed to observing and trying to address the root problem.


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