A recent Friday night sting in Schenectady by city police, state troopers and the state Liquor Authority caught employees at five local stores and bars selling alcohol to minors.
First of all, who doesn't know the drinking age in New York is 21? It's been that way since 1985. That was more than 30 years ago.
Second, who in this day and age is stupid enough to sell alcohol to someone who's young enough to look underage? There's no penalty for refusing service to someone you don't trust is of age, even if they have what looks like a legitimate ID. So when in doubt, don't sell to them.
Each of the five individuals who got caught face two misdemeanor charges, enough to net them hefty fines and possible jail time. And if someone gets into a crash where someone is injured, the seller is potentially liable for damages. And for those businesses whose staffs broke the law, the Liquor Authority could take away their liquor license.
That's how serious the state takes this crime.
But the biggest impact of selling alcohol to minors isn't to the seller or the businesses they work for, but to the person they sell the alcohol to.
Drinking is one of the most dangerous activities our kids do.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths involving those under age 21 each year, including deaths from car accidents, burns, falls, drowning and alcohol poisoning. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by underage drinkers for injuries and related conditions.
In a 2013 survey of youth behavior, 10 percent of underage drinkers said they drove after drinking and 22 percent said they rode in a car with someone who had been drinking. Those statistics mean that underage drinking doesn't just affect the individual involved. It affects all of us — our children, our children who might be friends with the underage drunk driver, and other innocent motorists who might be on the road with them.
Underage drinkers are also more likely than others to commit sexual assaults and be victims of sexual assault, have unwanted or unprotected sex, and commit other crimes.
So while it might not seem like such a big deal to sell a six-pack of beer to a teenager, it can have a significant impact — not just on the life of the seller, but the underage drinker and everyone they might encounter.
It's another Friday night.
For all our sakes, think before you serve.