SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Annual data from San Diego county medical services show an alarming number of local underage drinking deaths.
Those numbers beg the question: If young people are not old enough to drink, where are they getting the alcohol?
“It is unlawful and illegal to give alcohol to kids under 21 – don’t do it.” That was the message from county officials and health experts as San Diego fights to stop underage alcohol-related deaths.
On average, the medical examiner said eleven teens die in San Diego each year with alcohol byproducts in their system.
“The thing about those numbers is they should all be zero. Every one of them was underage and should not have ethanol in their blood,” said Steven Campman, Chief Deputy Medical Examiner for San Diego County.
Nationwide, organizers said alcohol-related car crashes is the leading cause of death for teenagers.
“It could be the passenger who passes away because someone gets behind the wheel after drinking. For teens, it’s because they were provided alcohol by a young adult, older friend or sibling,” said Lauren Pallasigui with Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Center.
The statistics come as San Diego prepares to host thousands of college students on Spring Break.
The county’s alcohol policy panel touts among its accomplishments that all but one county beach are alcohol-free.
The county is doing outreach to stop older classmates from illegally providing alcohol to those underage – stressing the county has social ordinances that make it a crime to do so.
A crime punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
“Alcohol is really pervasive. It is everywhere. It is woven into fabric of what we do. The more we become accustomed to things and the bottom line is that it is illegal to give under 21 – don’t do it,” said Linda Bridgeman-Smith.