Editorial: A problem that extends well beyond alcohol

07/01/2016 12:00 PM |

Nearly a decade has passed since Suffolk County adopted its social host law, which is aimed at preventing adults from allowing minors to consume alcohol in their homes.

In the nine years since the legislation’s approval, just four tickets have been issued by police in Suffolk County — and zero convictions have resulted.

While the motivation underlying this statute is commendable, it’s hard to argue that it’s had much of an impact.

As we reported this week, studies in both Riverhead and Southold towns show local teens are still consuming alcohol at a significant rate. One study conducted by the Riverhead Community Awareness Program revealed that nearly half the high school students polled said they were served alcohol by an adult at a friend’s home.

Suffolk legislators are now doubling down on the social host law, elevating it from a violation to a misdemeanor. This will make it more easily enforceable for local police, who will no longer have to observe a minor being served alcohol in order to write a ticket. A misdemeanor arrest can be based on the testimony of witnesses, police officials said.

While it’s difficult to imagine anyone arguing that a social host law is anything but well-intentioned, it should be noted that in the decade since the county has begun cracking down on the service and sale of alcohol to minors, the use of opioids among teens and young adults has been on the rise.

As alcohol has become harder for underage consumers to get their hands on, prescription pills and heroin have become easier to obtain.

While we certainly hope that an expanded social host law further deters adults from serving alcohol to underage drinkers, we also hope the county doesn’t lose sight of the more serious problem of opioids in our communities.

If the revised law proves to be more easily enforced, perhaps the county will expand the bill even further to ensure that fines levied for social host violations are placed in a fund to educate teens and treat them for opioid addiction.

We have more than an alcohol problem in Suffolk County. Drug addiction is something our lawmakers must do all they can to help prevent.

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