By David Gale
Simplified Utah liquor laws have made getting a drink easier but have increased penalties for abuse.
The Utah Legislature made sweeping changes to Utah”s liquor laws during the 2003 session.
Under newly-approved guidelines, restrictions on where alcohol can be served have been relaxed.
Utah clubs are also now permitted to advertise on billboards and explain what club memberships are and how they work.
While alcohol will be more accessible to legal drinkers, access to private clubs will now be completely restricted for minors.
This could affect minors accustomed to attending concerts at area clubs and clubs catering to special events, such as weddings, where alcohol is normally served with minors present.
Some say rewriting liquor laws will not have much effect on alcohol availability for Utah teens.
“If you ask students about the difficulty of getting alcohol and drugs, those who want them can still get them,” said sociology professor Stephen Bahr. “It won”t change much.”
Bahr worked on a 1997 study commissioned by Utah to study drug use among students statewide.
In his study, Bahr found that alcohol consumption has stayed constant in the state for the past 10 years, although marijuana use has risen slightly.
Cigarette use among teens has declined over the years, Bahr said, and has a much more negative image among today”s teens.
Binge drinking remains a problem and is not likely to change, according to Bahr.
“Kids do it because it”s a way of hanging out and feeling part of the crowd,” he said. “It”s done to gain social acceptance.”
A 2001 Harvard study based on a survey of more than 10,000 students at 119 universities showed that, nationally, 40 percent of all undergraduate students participated in excessive drinking.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration”s Impaired Driving Division, 60 Utahns were killed and 3,288 were injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in 1999, the last year reliable data was available.
The Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reported that 20 percent of all alcohol related accidents in Utah involved underage drinkers.