A national survey shows Utah has the lowest number of underage drinkers in the country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows just 14.3% of Utah teens surveyed reported using alcohol during the previous month, more than 12% below the national average.
Susannah Burt, Program Manager for Prevention Services at the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, attributes those low numbers to the state doing a good job of educating people about the negative consequences of underage drinking, and also to the state’s stringent alcohol laws.
"We’ve created an environment through education and through policy that we don’t encourage underage drinking. We’ve made it more difficult for youth to access alcohol, especially through the policy such as Eliminating Alcohol Sales to Youth. It's called EASY."
Burt says the EASY program allows law enforcement to use underage decoys to conduct random compliance checks of establishments selling alcohol. Only 3% of the state’s underage drinkers report having bought alcohol themselves. Burt says that sounds another alarm.
"That means that the other huge percentage -- 97% -- is getting it elsewhere. That means we as parents, as community members, as teachers, as legislators, anyone, need to be very aware of how they are getting their alcohol, which is usually from home from the parent, or from a friend’s home from parent or an adult."
Vermont recorded the highest rate of underage drinking at 37%. The report, which surveyed those between the ages of 12 and 20, was released by the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration using data from 2008 to 2010.