Proposed Iowa Law Could Reduce Underaged Alcohol Poisoning Deaths
An alarming amount of young people who are underaged are drinking alcohol in the state of Iowa. Surveys and research on young people in the state show that the youth of Iowa have as many issues with alcohol abuse as adults. The great fear of parents regarding alcohol is not that their kids will drink but that their kids could get hurt drinking. Iowa legislators have proposed a bill that would provide immunity to those under 21 who are trying to help those who require emergency assistance due to an alcohol poisoning.
Underaged Drinking Statistics
The Iowa Department of Public Health has conducted surveys and studies that show approximately 23 percent of 8th graders reported drinking alcohol before the age of 13. By the 11th grade, 20 percent of those surveyed report having drank alcohol within the past month. Alcohol continues to be the most abused substance by youths in the United States and children in Iowa seem to be at a higher than average risk to abuse alcohol.
Binge drinking is also a serious concern for the state. Binge drinking is generally defined as having five alcoholic drinks within two hours for men and four alcoholic drinks within two hours for women. The prevalence of binge drinking in Iowa is significantly higher than the national average, with 25 percent of people in Iowa reporting binge drinking compared to 18.4 percent for the rest of the country. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) younger people are the most likely to engage in binge drinking, with 30 percent of those 18-24 years old reporting binge drinking.
The CDC also estimates that six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning, also referred to as alcohol overdose, often presents as nausea and vomiting, mental confusion, respiratory problems, reduced body temperature, seizures, weak pulse, irregular heart rate, and unconsciousness.
Youths are often so afraid of criminal prosecution for underaged drinking that they can be reluctant to help a fellow underaged drinker that presents symptoms of alcohol poisoning. This reluctance can cost a young person their life. Iowa legislators introduced House Bill 175 to give immunity from underaged consumption or possession laws to persons under the age of 21 seeking emergency assistance for overdose or crime victims.
Underaged Drinking and the Law
Normally, a person that is between the ages of 18-20 who is caught in possession of alcohol would be facing up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200. A criminal record for a young person could jeopardize their admission to college or stop them from gaining employment. Young people are also often quite afraid of what will happen when their parents find out they were arrested. The fear of getting in trouble can often lead to a delay in seeking medical attention for a friend at a party that has alcohol poisoning and that delay can have dire consequences.
House Bill 175 would give immunity to those who are in good faith attempting to get emergency medical care for a person who has overdosed on alcohol. That immunity protects a person under the age of 21 from prosecution for underaged possession, purchasing, or consumption of alcohol. If they used a fake ID to obtain the alcohol they will not be prosecuted for using the fake ID. They would also not face certain sanctions from their university if they are enrolled. The university would not be able to remove them from a course, restrict their enrollment, suspend or expel the student, or evict or exclude the student from housing.
To be eligible for this immunity a person had to have been the first person that sought emergency medical care or the person that needs medical assistance. They must also provide their name and contact information to either medical or law enforcement personnel. They have to stay on scene until the assistance arrives and cooperate with medical professionals or law enforcement.
The hope is that by removing the fear of punishment, underaged people who have gotten into alcohol will still do the right thing and maybe save a friends life.