Party + Alcohol + Minors = Violation of Law

Countywide Social Host Liability Ordinance Begins December 1

A countywide Social Host Liability Ordinance was passed by the Board of Supervisors on June 15, 2010, and will go into effect on December 1, 2010.

The law makes it illegal for anyone hosting a party to knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol at that party. If cited, the host will face a civil penalty of $500 plus a required educational class for the first offense, $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 for a third offense.

While many believe underage drinking is an inevitable “rite of passage” from which adolescents can easily recover because of their resilience, the exact opposite is true. The brain changes dramatically during adolescence and growth can be seriously inhibited by alcohol consumption. The damage alcohol can cause to the adolescent brain is often long-term and irreversible. Even short – term, moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more among youth than adults. Adolescents need to drink only half as much to suffer the same negative side effects.

Locally, California Healthy Kids Survey data gathered from 7th, 9th, and 11th graders throughout the County shows that alcohol remains a serious issue. In 2008-2009, 24% of 11th graders reported drinking alcohol at parties, while 4% of 11th graders reported obtaining alcohol from their own home.

In focus groups conducted by Santa Barbara City Alcohol and Drug Prevention Programs, 91% of teens admitted that “home” is the number one place to obtain and consume alcohol. Additionally, adolescent participation in alcohol and drug treatment programs throughout the County has continued to climb from 363 youth in 1999 to 1,772 in 2004, indicating that alcohol and other drug use is a significant problem among the local youth population.

There are significant community impacts related to underage drinking. For instance, the economic cost of alcohol use by youth in California including traffic crashes, violent crimes, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and treatment is more than $6.5 billion per year.

Social Host Ordinances have been passed nationwide over the years to create healthier and safer communities. SHOs have proven to be effective tools to reduce the number of underage drinking parties, reduce underage drinking, underage binge drinking, drinking and driving, and to establish healthy expectations for teens, adults and our communities. Considering that underage alcohol use is associated with the three leading causes of death among American youth – unintended injuries, homicides and suicides – a Social Host Ordinance can be an important part of alcohol abuse prevention.

Want to learn more? Call 614-1338 or 681-4907, or go to the County of Santa Barbara Website and find the new law (Chapter 48).