Indiana steps up efforts against underage alcohol sales
It's prom season, and time for graduation parties and college events like the Little 500 and Grand Prix. All of those occasions may tempt teenagers to drink. Now there's a new effort underway to keep teenagers safe by keeping them away from alcohol.
Indiana alcohol distributors and liquor stores are teaming up to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.
"We don't want your business if you are not 21 years old and we will never knowingly sell alcohol to a minor. I know that our partners share that commitment, but we also know too often alcohol winds up in the hands of young people," said Matt Bell, Big Red Liquors.
The group says it's also up to everyone, including families and the community, to stop teenagers from drinking.
Every liquor store in the state will tell you they don't serve teen, but clearly somebody is. What the state can do to stop it is unclear, but a Carmel mother who lost her son tells us what is at stake if we continue down the same path.
It is subtle but stirring. A soccer ball nestled in the tree in front of Dawn Finbloom's house belonged to her son, Brett.
"I wish I had talked to Brett about drinking too much, too fast and that you could die," said Finbloom.
Two years ago this coming August, the 18-year-old with the bright future died after attending a farewell party with high school friends.
"It's my understanding from the 911 call, it was vodka. He drank so much, too fast. It made his heart stop and he died," said Finbloom.
The statistics are staggering. A teenager dies every 90 minutes in this country from alcohol poisoning. Two dozen Indiana teens like Brett have died from it in the last decade.
Indiana thought it was getting a grasp on the problem when it allowed authorities to track kegs of beer on some college campuses where underage drinking was taking place. Underage drinkers on campus and off turned to harder liquor instead.
"So well-intended efforts that adults make might have significant consequences to the people we are trying to protect," said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
"Definitely more dangerous drinking hard alcohol than beer. I don't think kids understand a great big tall beer is equal to a tiny amount of hard alcohol," said Finbloom.
It's a lesson Indiana is learning the hard way. One major retailer admitted keg sales are down 80 percent but overall sales are still up, which means another parent somewhere is going to get another phone call.
"I can't believe I got that phone call. As I say, it is worse than the worst nightmare. In a nightmare you wake up and I live with this everyday. Everyday I wake up hoping this is not true. I go out to the cemetery and hope his monument is not there and it is still there," said Finbloom.
Brett Finbloom's soccer ball remains lodged in the tree out front - a daily reminder of what can happen when you drink too much too fast.
The Finblooms speak publicly about this issue and the Lifeline bill that also could have saved Brett's life. Lawmakers did pass social host legislation dealing with those who provide space or access of alcohol to minors, but as Attorney General Zoeller said today it is much harder to legislate a solution to the shift to hard liquor.