Orange lauded in underage alcohol compliance checks

ORANGE — According to a countywide coalition that aims to improve the health and well-being of young people, Orange bars, restaurants and retail stores have been exemplary in limiting youth access to alcohol by consistently refusing sales to minors.

Compliance checks conducted by the coalition testing whether clerks and wait staff will card young people when they ask for alcohol may be partly responsible for sinking rates of alcohol use among Franklin County and North Quabbin teens, coalition leaders said recently.

Franklin Regional Council of Governments Prevention Strategies Coordinator Amanda Doster told selectmen at their meeting earlier this month that Orange had a “very low number of violations” during the compliance checks, “You are one of the best among Franklin County and North Quabbin towns,” she said.

“It’s good to know we’re a model for a change,” said Selectman George Willard.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Reinig said she personally witnessed the integrity of Orange merchants when the employee of a local package store refused to sell alcohol to an adult who was ahead of her in line. The employee became suspicious when the man asked for the same brand of alcohol a teenager had tried to purchase a few minutes earlier.

Reinig said the clerk pointed out the window to a teenager waiting outside the store, and told him “’The answer is no … if it’s for that young lady out there.’”

Doster said that limiting access to alcohol has been one of the coalition’s key strategies in reducing youth alcohol use. Semi-yearly compliance checks conducted in collaboration with local police identify employees and businesses selling alcohol to minors.

Doster said compliance checks and other proactive efforts to reduce youth substance abuse are paying off.

According to a survey of local high school students, the use of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes by Franklin County and North Quabbin youth has declined over the past decade.

The incidence of young people binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion) has nearly been cut in half since 2003. And the percentage of youth who report drinking within the last 30 days decreased almost 40 percent in that decade.

Selectmen voted unanimously to continue participating in the compliance check program.

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