Safety Dance

We’ve been focused on the issue of competition for the last month or so. Maybe we should spend a little time with our opponent’s other primary argument: the safety of teenagers.

On our favorite website, our opponents claim that our bill would “put wine on the shelves of grocery and big box stores across the state – and right in the line of sight of any teenager entering their doors.” In an open letter, the Dover (TN) police chief talked about her fears as a mother of teenage children if retail food stores are allowed to sell wine. (BTW, Dover doesn’t allow package sales, so it won’t be affected by our legislation anyway.)

That is hyperbole. Here are the facts.

The following statistics come from the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the FBI’s official summary of crime nationwide.

Let’s look at alcohol offenses by people under age 18. The UCR (Table 69) captures three categories of offenses: DUI, liquor laws (e.g. possession, attempt to purchase), and drunkenness.

Are the number of these offenses higher in the 33 states that allow wine sales in retail food stores?

The table below show the average offenses (per 100,000 residents) by people under age 18 for 2005 to 2007. We have further divided the data by whether states allow the sale of wine in retail food stores.

Wine in retail food stores? 2005
2006 2007
Yes 66.2 75.7 78.6
No 85.9 88.9 84.1

Turns out the answer to our question is no. The average number of offenses is actually higher in states that prohibit wine in retail food stores.

And, it just so happens that 12 of the 15 states with the lowest average offenses allow the sale of wine in retail food stores.

Those are numbers our opponents can’t dance around.

The Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association is serious about helping to prevent teen alcohol consumption. That is why in 2007 we pushed for an important deterrent to underage drinking: the Responsible Vendor Act and mandatory carding. No other state in the nation has laws as strict as Tennessee when it comes to proof of age for alcohol sales.

The General Assembly changed the law this year to mandate carding for anyone who reasonably looks younger than 50 years old. It’s still one of the best laws on the books to discourage teenagers from trying to buy alcohol.

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