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  ILCC Industry Education Division



New Don't Be Sorry program aims to prevent purchases for underage drinkers

DATE: May 7, 2008
CONTACT: Ted Penesis

ROCK FALLS, IL—With prom and graduation season in full swing, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission's Don't Be Sorry program kicked off a new statewide initiative today to teach students, parents, and liquor retailers about the legal consequences of underage drinking. The new Project Sticker Shock campaign is based on a similar effort inaugurated locally last year by Sinnissippi Centers Inc., a community-based behavioral healthcare center serving Carroll, Lee, Ogle and Whiteside Counties.

During this campaign kickoff, stickers were placed on alcoholic beverages reminding adults and teens of their legal obligations in regard to underage drinking. As part of the kickoff activities, traffic safety consultant Marti Belluschi addressed an assembly of Rock Falls High School students about how drinking and driving has affected her life. Ms. Belluschi, along with her father, were hit head-on by a drunk driver who was going 90 miles an hour. The two Quad Cities residents were seriously injured in the crash, with Marti near death. This past March, on the anniversary date of her crash, Ms. Belluschi met for the first time the two responding police officers who saved her life.

The topic of discussion is timely. According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58 percent of traffic fatalities during the prom and graduation period were alcohol-related, compared to 41 percent during the rest of the year.

Don’t Be Sorry is an educational program designed to teach students, parents, and liquor retailers about the dangers of underage drinking. Don’t Be Sorry features educators and guest speakers who travel the state to share their personal experiences and the consequences of underage drinking. Belluschi presented with Ted Penesis, the ILCC's Industry Education Manager, as they offered information and distributed materials about the health and legal consequences of underage drinking.

Once the school day ended, Rock Falls students kicked off the new State of Illinois Sticker Shock campaign as they fanned out across the community to distribute stickers, decals, and posters emphasizing the laws regarding underage drinking. "We chose the City of Rock Falls as the statewide kickoff site to honor area officials for bringing this innovative program idea to our attention," says Lainie Krozel, Acting Director of the Liquor Commission. "After all, there would not be a statewide Sticker Shock campaign if not for the Sinnissippi Center's previous efforts and success."

Sticker Shock posters were hung in area establishments, decals were adhered to glass doors, and stickers were placed on packages of beer, wine coolers, distilled spirits, and other alcohol products that might appeal to underage drinkers. Says Sinnissippi Center's Tedra Mewhirter: "We are thrilled the state has chosen to expand upon on our work. Obviously, this is just one component to an overall prevention strategy, but if this final Sticker Shock reminder note ultimately stops someone from purchasing alcohol for underage consumption, then we're doing the right thing."

The campaign’s posters contain additional information on the legal consequences of underage drinking. For example, it lists situations when felony charges can be filed against parents and teens. Other Don’t Be Sorry materials—such as cashmats, t-shirts, and buttons—were also distributed at the kickoff event to further educate students, parents, and liquor retailers about the dangers of underage drinking.

“Preventing an underage drinking incident from occurring in the first place is always better than dealing with the potential aftermath,” says ILCC Industry Education Manager Ted Penesis. "The message we are sending is simple and to the point: It is illegal to provide alcohol to those under 21. Hopefully, through this campaign, we can educate people about the legal consequences of their actions, and make them think twice before furnishing alcohol to minors.”

The Rock Falls event is just one of many planned this spring. As part of a statewide Sticker Shock kickoff tour, the Don't Be Sorry campaign will visit suburban Chicago, the Peoria area, and communities in eastern and southern Illinois later this month.

Recent State of Illinois efforts

During the past year, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed two strong pieces of legislation aimed at curbing underage drinking. The Governor signed SB 1625 into law, preventing the advertisement and promotion of flavored alcoholic beverages, or alcopops, to children. Alcopops are alcoholic beverages blended with fruit juice, lemonade or other flavorings. Examples include ‘hard lemonade’ and ‘twisted tea.’ The new law fines companies that promote alcopops to minors $500.00 for the first offense and $1,000.00 for a second offense.

In addition, Gov. Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 158 that underscores adults’ responsibility for preventing underage drinking. This legislation increases the penalty to 1-3 years in prison and up to a $25,000.00 fine for parents who knowingly allow underage alcohol consumption in their home and the drinking leads to serious injuries or death.

This law was passed, in part, as a response to the Liquor Commission’s TrAIL (Tracking Alcohol in IL) Program, where investigators track alcohol purchases when underage drinking leads in injury or death. During its first year, ILCC agents were called in to investigate 28 incidents which resulted in 19 fatalities and 45 injuries. In several of these incidents, parents were suspected, charged, and in one case, ultimately sentenced to jail time for providing the alcohol. Whiteside County is one of eight pilot counties where the TrAIL protocol has been activated.

FACTS about underage drinking:

  1. Car crashes are the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for drivers under 21—and alcohol is a big factor in these crashes. In 2006, about a quarter of these young U.S. drivers had a blood alcohol level above Illinois’ legal limit..
  2. Those who start drinking at or before age 15 are FIVE times more lately to become an alcoholic than those who start drinking at age 21 or later.
  3. Studies show that even short-term or moderate drinking during the teen years can cause IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE to the brain.
  4. Alcohol was consumed in 69 percent of teen DROWNINGS
  5. 400,000 students reported having had UNPROTECTED SEX as a result of drinking alcohol.

(SOURCES: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, NTHSA, IDOT, AMA)

Marti Belluschi

Marti has worked on traffic safety issues, particularly impaired driving prevention, since 1985 when she volunteered to help with a new Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization in Illinois. Currently, she participates in a variety of traffic safety programs and presentations including work with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Governor’s Alcohol Abuse Task Force, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM), the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, schools and fire departments.

Ted Penesis

A communications professional for over twenty years, Ted Penesis has served as Industry Education Manager for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission since April 2005, where he supervises the state's tobacco enforcement operation, alcohol server training program, and underage drinking awareness efforts. A former TV Producer/Director for an NBC affiliate in Rockford, Penesis has also worked for a variety of Chicago area governmental institutions including municipalities, school districts, and recreational agencies.

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