(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco today addressed claims that selling spirits alongside beer and wine would increase minor access to alcohol. His voice joins the many law enforcement officials, businesses, and organizations who have already spoken on this issue. The Floridians for Fair Business Practices (FFBP) coalition and its supporters have worked to promote the facts of the alcohol separation law repeal, specifically on the issues of safety and minor access. Sheriff Nocco had this to say on those two topics:
“Our agency monitors stores that sell alcohol to ensure minors are not obtaining it illegally. Through our operations, we have seen that the issue isn’t whether spirits are being sold next to beer or wine, but that clerks are properly checking identification to ensure the purchaser is of age to buy such products. I have not seen crime data that suggests a rise or fall if spirits are sold in a large store that sells numerous products. This is not a minor access issue. What matters is that a store train its members to properly check identification,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Niceville Police Chief David Popwell previously stated, “Allowing spirits to be sold in the same aisle as beer and wine is actually an incredible deterrent issue. In larger retail stores, there is much more security – more cashiers, more managers, more loss prevention officers to monitor activities. An underage child is not going to be stealing liquor in this type of environment. Minors are going to find an out-of-the-way liquor store, with one person behind the counter and only a few people working or shopping there, instead of a grocery store, drugstore or convenience store where a minor is likely to be seen by someone they know within their local community.”
Further, according to a Tampa Bay Times article, “Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he isn’t convinced by the public safety argument. He said he doesn’t think minors will have any easier access to alcohol with whiskey and vodka in the grocery aisles. ‘It’s not a public safety issue.’” (Tampa Bay Times, February 16, 2015)
Research supports that changing Florida’s alcohol separation law will not increase access to minors. Most often, minor access to alcohol comes from someone they know or a person over 21, not from a retail store. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- Among underage current drinkers in 2013, approximately 71 percent report they did not pay for the alcohol they consumed.
- 61.1 percent received it from either an unrelated person over 21 or parents, guardians, or other adult family members.
- 16.4 percent received it from nonpaying underage drinkers, 7.8 percent took it from home, and 2.9 took it from some else’s home.
- Of those who did pay, 20.5 percent gave money to someone else to purchase it for them.
Allowing spirits to be sold alongside beer and wine hasn’t shown to cause an increase in underage drinking. In fact, there are fewer minors drinking today than 10 years ago. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), underage drinking has declined among eighth graders, tenth graders, and twelfth graders by 47 percent, 29 percent, and 20 percent respectively since 2005. Additionally FAAR citing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also reports drunk driving deaths have declined by 23 percent since 2004.
Senate Bill 468 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) and House Bill 107 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) are two bills that deal with the alcohol separation law. Both the House and Senate bills aim to level the playing field for all businesses in Florida.