Commissioners And AG Announce New Effort To Curb Underage Alcohol Sales

August 9, 2006

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara, Attorney General Steven Rowe and Health and Human Services Commissioner Brenda Harvey today announced a contract with the Maine Sheriffs Association to conduct statewide compliance inspections of retail liquor licensees. The inspections will assure that stores that sell alcoholic beverages comply with the law to ID anyone age 27 or under and refuse sales to anyone under 21 or those that fail to present valid identification.

The contract, funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Substance Abuse, will be administered by the Attorney General's Office on behalf of the Department. Enforcement authority is extended to the Maine Sheriffs Association by the Department of Public Safety and direct program administration will be overseen by the Maine State Police, Liquor Licensing Unit.

The Maine Sheriffs Association has conducted inspections of tobacco sellers under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services since 1997 as part of the State's comprehensive tobacco prevention program. During that time the state has seen a 50% decline in youth smoking.

Public Safety Commissioner Cantara said, "This contract will greatly expand the resources we have to deal with underage drinking. We have been working with many local police departments to address alcohol related violations and this contract compliments those efforts and will allow statewide enforcement with agents experienced in underage sales laws. Store owners and managers should take this effort seriously and train their employees to obey the law. Violators will face fines and could lose their licenses if they do not comply with the law."

Attorney General Rowe added "It is imperative that we keep alcohol out of the hands of children. Youth drinking is a major pediatric health crisis that has devastating consequences for our children, communities and economy. We now know that alcohol can cause serious damage to a child's developing brain and so we must do more to ensure that children do not drink. Maine has had great success in lowering underage tobacco use through similar enforcement efforts. We believe this initiative to prevent underage alcohol sales will be successful at slowing the flow of alcohol to our children."

Health and Human Service Commissioner Harvey said, "Our efforts to combat substance abuse are enhanced by cooperative efforts like this among agencies and law enforcement. Combined with the community work being done to educate the public by the Office of Substance Abuse and many local and statewide advocates, we look forward to positive results from these efforts."