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Survey: Underage drinking down in Wisconsin



MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Fewer Wisconsin high school students participate in underage drinking compared to two decades ago, according to a new study.

The Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey studies high school students every two years for topics including sexual activity, school safety, drug use and alcohol use. The most recent survey was conducted last year and released this month.

The survey found that 30 percent of responding students admitted to drinking, compared to nearly 50 percent 20 years ago. About 16 percent of students reported binge drinking, while almost 65 percent said they had tried alcohol at least once, the Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The federal government began encouraging states to push against underage drinking in the late 1990s, said Julia Sherman, coordinator of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project. The project is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and provides services to improve the community alcohol environment, according to its website.

“I think what we’re seeing is the pay-off of all that action because Wisconsin at that point had one of the highest (youth drinking) rates in the nation,” Sherman said. “People here were frightened. Parents were terrified. And we knew something had to be done.”

Many Wisconsin communities passed ordinances that fine parents for allowing parties where underage drinking occurs. State lawmakers passed a “social host” law last year to close any loopholes the county ordinances left open after a challenge to one of the ordinances was upheld in 2016.

“If you’re an adult and you’ve allowed underage drinking on property that you own or control you can get a $500 citation now. That gets most people’s attention,” Sherman said.

Research indicates that the first drink is often consumed at home. Some community coalitions are distributing refrigerator locks to prevent teenagers from accessing alcohol, Sherman said.

She said youth “can’t drink what they can’t get their hands on.”

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