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Social hosting refers to parents who knowingly provide alcohol to minors that are not their children or allow alcohol to be consumed by minors on property they control, like their house or a rented space. In effect, these parents are ‘hosting’ an alcohol party for minors.

Many parents believe they can teach their child to drink responsibly or that only kids with the strictest parents drink the most because they don’t know how to drink. Research is very clear on this subject – there’s a lot more to worry about than underage drinking and driving. Alcohol is the most abused substance by Texas teens and the most available.

Nationwide, organizations like Next Step, are working to motivate local governing bodies to enact specific Social Hosting ordinances, giving law enforcement yet another tool to prevent underage drinking. Currently, providing alcohol to a minor who is not your child is punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $4000 fine. This is a very stiff penalty that requires a more in-depth investigation than that typically needed for an ordinance violation.

Texas law does allow parents or court-appointed custodians to provide alcohol to their own child or spouse and if the parent/adult is visibly present when the minor possesses and/or consumes the alcoholic beverage. It is commonly believed that the intent of this exemption was to enable small amounts of alcohol to be consumed during religious observations and ceremonies.

Research shows that when parents give alcohol to kids, those children are more likely to get into alcohol-related trouble and they’re more likely to drink to get drunk than other young people. Also, when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink, they drink more and more often when they are not with their parents.

When teens do drink, they binge drink 90% of the time. So, they’re not “drinking responsibly.” When teens binge drink, it puts them at a greater chance for risky sexual behavior, physical and sexual assault, unintentional accidents and even death. Teenagers also have an increased risk of addiction. Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45% chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. A person who starts drinking at the legal age of 21 has only a 7% chance of becoming addicted.

Research also proves that kids whose parents convey a strong disapproval message about underage drinking are 80% less likely to drink than teens whose parents don’t.

Adults may still wonder why we need a Social Host Ordinance if the law already prohibits providing alcohol to minors. The fact is, the law still allows parents and guardians to provide alcohol to minors and the burden of proof on law enforcement requires visual confirmation of the alcohol provision.

According to Texans Standing Tall, a statewide prevention coalition, a local social host ordinance is a local law that holds adults liable for underage drinking on their property and/or for providing alcohol to minors. Communities across the country have begun to pass such ordinances to ensure the health and safety of youth. A social host ordinance is a prevention tool designed “to stop parties where binge drinking is occurring by creating adult accountability without necessarily elevating the offense to the misdemeanor level that can carry a penalty of jail time” (An Issue Briefing: The Petaluma Social Host Ordinance).

You can learn more about the statewide effort to enact social host ordinances here: http://www.texansstandingtall.org/pdfs/IssueBrief_SocialHost.pdf

In recent months, the cities of El Paso and San Antonio have passed Social Host Ordinances. Next Step Community Solutions will continue to work through our 3 community coalitions to ensure our youth and communities are safe from the dangers of underage drinking.

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