There is no single answer to the problem of underage consumption of alcohol, tobacco or other products whose legal use is limited to adults. Teenagers have been tempted to try these "forbidden fruits" for as long as there have been teenagers!
Part of the problem is the universal mystique these products have for adolescents yearning for adulthood. We'd also be remiss if we didn't suggest that part of the blame rests on the popular culture as portrayed by the entertainment media.
The intense pressure for the approval of peers is an overwhelming force -- too strong for parents and family to counter in many cases.
That's why we were encouraged by plans announced for an anti-drinking program in Lewis County. Sheriff Robert Rinehart's office was approved for a state grant to assist in educating both teens and retailers on the facts about both the dangers of alcohol, and the serious legal penalties facing those convicted of buying ... or selling ... alcohol to underage youth.
Sheriff Rinehart says the "Reaching for the Stars" curriculum has received high marks in other states. Its one-two punch offers both funds for education, and for enforcement aimed at the retailers who may be tempted to look the other way at underage buyers.
We think that promoting the truth about the dangers of alcohol for the young, and the serious consequences that await the violator, could reach teens who've resisted other methods.
We also believe that the vast majority of retailers, who respect the laws and do their best to enforce them, will welcome the support.
The bottom line is still the same: If the reality of alcohol abuse isn't enough to stop the teen drinker, then the legal consequences may get the point across.
Sheriff Rinehart's proposed program could give parents, schools and homes some much needed help in keeping our youth alive, and healthy, to enjoy the adulthood they want so much.