Underage Drinking & Hand Sanitizer: The New Booze? - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR -- Marsha Mays & Heather Flanigan Reporting

Underage Drinking & Hand Sanitizer: The New Booze?

July 25, 2007 - Posted at 8:15 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- A new study finds underage drinking is at an all time high in July...with a report of 50% of 15-year-olds claiming to have consumed alcohol. About one third of teen drinking happens during the summer months...its alarming numbers that has law enforcement working to keep kids away from alcohol.

The average age for kids to first try alcohol is 11-years-old for boys and 13-years-old for girls.  It may sound shocking, but Jonesboro D.A.R.E. Officer Greg Lawson says he's heard it all.  

"It's amazing the number of fifth graders that say that have tried alcohol.  I haven't asked where they've got it, but they will tell you, ‘yeah, we've drank before,'" said Lawson.

On the average, teens will start regularly consuming alcohol just before they are 16.

"I think they are getting older people to buy it for them.  You've got kids that are 12-15 years old that are running around with 21-23 year olds and they are getting them to buy it for them or they are getting it from their parent's houses," said Lawson.

Studies show kids are less likely to drink when they have closer relationships with their parents.     

"I think a lot of parents just kind of put a blind eye to it and don't want to think their child is doing something like that," said Lawson.

But teens that begin drinking before 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol problems than those who start at age 21.

"We're doing just about everything we can.  I don't know if we can ever get a handle on it or not, but we can try to slow it down some," said Lawson.    

The statistics show teens are drinking alcohol more and more, but are they drinking the alcohol from a bottle of vodka or are they getting it from things you'd never think possible?

You may find it hard to believe but a small bottle of hand sanitizer is stronger than most bottles of liquor.

Hand sanitizer contains 62% alcohol and there's only 35% in a bottle of rum. Numbers that are adding up for kids searching for ways to engage in underage drinking.

You may have heard of teens drinking Robitussin or even Listerine trying to get drunk from the alcohol content inside the product, but apparently the new booze is hand sanitizer. They're either drinking it straight up or mixing with something sweet.  

"They're trying to do whatever they can to get whatever type high they are looking for by doing whatever type product that's not really going to get them in any trouble," says Lawson.

Although drinking hand sanitizer may sound crazy, it's not illegal unless they get behind the wheel.

A small bottle of hand sanitizer contains 62% Ethel Alcohol which makes it 124 proof. Two ounces of the stuff equals about four shots of vodka.

It's strong stuff and unlike alcohol, it's not illegal for kids to buy.

"It's a lot easier for them to get. They're not having to get somebody to go buy something for them. They can do this on their own," says Lawson.

Hand sanitizer is around kids everywhere they turn. It's even required on most back to school supply lists. So they've got easy access and whether they're doing it for attention or trying to fit in, nevertheless it's dangerous and parents need to be aware.

"I shoot him straight and tell them what it can do to them or what could possibly happen and unless a parent can lock their kid in a closet or something, you just kind of have to put some trust in them and hope that they do listen when somebody's telling them the dangers of whatever it is they may be trying to do," says Lawson.

So Lawson says by all means, talk to your children about drinking alcohol, even if that alcohol comes from a bottle of hand sanitizer.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers 12,000 cases of poison from hand sanitizer were reported last year and already in 2007, more than 6,000 cases have been reported of children ingesting the hand sanitizer.  

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