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Local News

Countywide Social Host Liability Ordinance Takes Effect Dec. 1

The law makes it illegal for anyone hosting a party to allow minors to consume alcohol

Hosting a party? Then know the law.

A countywide Social Host Liability Ordinance was passed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on June 15 and will go into effect Dec. 1.

The law makes it illegal for anyone hosting a party to knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol at that party. If cited, the host will face a civil penalty of $500 plus a required educational class for the first offense, $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 for a third offense.

Locally, data from the California Healthy Kids Survey gathered from seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders throughout the county show that alcohol remains a serious issue. In 2008-09, 24 percent of 11th-graders reported drinking alcohol at parties, while 4 percent of 11th-graders reported obtaining alcohol from their own home.

In focus groups conducted by Santa Barbara City Alcohol and Drug Prevention Programs, 91 percent of teens admitted that “home” is the No. 1 place to obtain and consume alcohol. Additionally, adolescent participation in alcohol and drug treatment programs throughout the county has continued to climb from 363 youths in 1999 to 1,772 in 2004, indicating that alcohol and other drug use is a significant problem among the local youth population.

There are significant community impacts related to underage drinking. For instance, the economic cost of alcohol use by youth in California including traffic crashes, violent crimes, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning and treatment is more than $6.5 billion per year.

Social Host Ordinances have been passed nationwide over the years to create healthier and safer communities. SHOs have proven to be effective tools to reduce the number of underage drinking parties, reduce underage drinking, underage binge drinking, drinking and driving, and to establish healthy expectations for teens, adults and communities.

For more information, call 805.614.1338 or 805.681.4907, or click here to find the new law (Chapter 48) under county codes.

— John Doyel is interim manager of the Santa Barbara County Alcohol & Drug Program.

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