December 2, 2003
HONOLULU - The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) and
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today released the Oahu "2003
Survey of Retail Alcohol Sales to Underage Persons." While the rate
at which minors were able to buy alcohol declined slightly from 26
percent in 2002 to 22 percent in 2003, health, law enforcement and
advocacy leaders remain concerned about the availability of alcohol to
under age persons.
The study details the enforcement operation in which youth decoys,
under the age of 21, visited 396 randomly selected Oahu outlets
licensed to sell alcohol. The decoys attempted to purchase alcohol with
identification that showed they were less than 21 years-of-age. Of the
396 outlets inspected, 78 percent (310 stores) refused to sell to
decoys but 22 percent of the businesses (86) failed to comply with the
law and sold to underage buyers.
At locations where alcohol was illegally sold, a police officer, who
had observed the sale, issued a citation to the store clerks. In
Honolulu selling alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor and carries a fine
of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail. The storeowner or licensee
who sells alcohol to a minor faces a penalty of up to $2,000 or
revocation or suspension of the liquor license. County penalties
"The compliance check program focuses on retail stores but it is
critically important that all adults refrain from selling or providing
alcohol to youth under the age of 21," said Carol McNamee, MADD-Hawaii
founder and spokeswoman. "Preventing youth from drinking before they
reach 21 is one of the most important ways to save lives in
Five factors were identified as significantly impacting the ability
of minors to buy alcohol. They included: asking for identification,
posting warning signs, the age of the buyer, the gender of the buyer
and the display of promotional materials within the store.
- Ninety-one percent (91%) of the time that the clerk asked for
identification from the youth decoy, the youth decoy was not able to
- Outlets that had "We Card" signs posted (33%) were more likely to
sell alcohol to a youth decoy than those who did not display such signs
- Clerks were more likely to sell to a 20-year-old decoy (26 %) than
the 18-year-old decoy (20%).
- The female decoy (22%) was more likely to be able to purchase than
the male decoy (6%).
- Outlets that displayed alcoholic beverage promotional material
(32%) were more likely to sell than those that did not (17%).
"Reducing the availability of alcohol is a key strategy for reducing
underage drinking," said Chiyome Fukino, M.D., Director, Hawaii State
Department of Health. "This data shows we need to increase merchant
education and public awareness to solidify the message that underage
drinking is not acceptable."
Of the 396 outlets surveyed, there were 180 convenience stores
(45.7%), 90 grocery stores (22.7%), 57 liquor stores (14.3%), 48 gas
stations (12%), and 21 drug/other stores (5.3%). The unannounced
inspections were conducted for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of
DOH by Mothers Against Drunk Driving in cooperation with the Honolulu
Police Department. MADD has been working to help save lives in Hawaii
for 19 years. Its mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims
of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.
For more information, contact:
Department of Health
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Division
Phone: (808) 692-7506
Department of Health
Phone: (808) 586-4402