My name is Iris Estrada and I will be a senior at Santa Barbara High School in the fall. I am writing this letter to inform you and our community about underage drinking and the cost to our community.

Many people don’t realize how easy it might be for teens in our community to obtain alcohol. This problem should concern everyone because underage drinking cost the citizens of California $6.8 billion in 2010. These costs include medical care, workless, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth. In 2009, underage customers consumed 17.5 percent of all alcohol sold in California, totaling $3,352 million in sales.

This year, Friday Night Live embarked a new campaign, Responsible Alcohol Merchant Awards. The purpose of this campaign was to educate merchants on laws and practices in regards to the selling of alcohol. We hoped that by educating merchants on these laws and best practices, they themselves could prevent the purchase of alcohol by underage consumers.

We started our campaign by surveying several alcohol vendors in the Milpas Street area. After collecting all the data, Friday Night Live wrote recommendations for each store on how they can improve their store, but also applauded them for the laws and best practices they’re in compliance with. With these recommendations in hand, we went back to the stores that we surveyed and spoke to the owners about what improvements they could do. A few of the stores signed a pledge not to sell alcohol to teenagers, and to follow all of the laws and best practices.

I believe that merchants can reduce the risk of teenage drinking by following the laws and best practices created for alcohol vendors. I also believe that as a community we can educate ourselves about these laws and best practices, and ensure we’re all doing what we can to prevent underage drinking.

Iris Estrada
Friday Night Live
Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse