Advocates looking to change drinking laws - - Jackson, MS

Advocates looking to change drinking laws

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"Alcohol is the number one choice of drug among youth," said Caroline Newkirk.

If you ask Newkirk, Mississippi has a drinking problem; the underage kind.  

"It's time for us to really take a stand against underage drinking from a state wide perspective," said Newkirk.

Newkirk says statistics show on average, kids in Mississippi start drinking at age 12. That's about the sixth grade. The national average is age 13.  

"While it's true that underage drinking is a social norm, this in no way makes it ok," said Newkirk.

Not everyone is a part of that norm. Victoria Mathias, 17, says alcohol should not have a place in the lives of teenagers, but peer pressure can make it a focal point.  

"Being in high school, you hear about it, you know it's happening and you know your friends are doing it," said Mathias.

Two bills in the legislature are now taking aim at underage drinking. The first is an amendment to existing law. It would add hotels and motels to the social host law which went into effect last year.  

These advocates are also trying to close a loophole in current law. As it stands now, it's illegal for a minor to purchase or possess alcohol but there's nothing against actually drinking it. That makes Mississippi one of fourteen states without a consumption law.  

"Essentially we are sending the message, go ahead and drink, just don't get caught with it in your hand," said Newkirk.

Newkirk says too often, teenagers are drinking with one goal in mind, to get drunk, which she says can hinder brain development and create health problems. That's enough for Mathias, a high school senior, to take a stand against it.  

"There's an age limit for a reason. When I'm 21, I'll have my decision to drink or not," said Mathias.

Both of those bills passed the house and now sit with the senate.    With April being alcohol awareness month, there will be several "town hall" style meetings across the state to bring awareness to the issue.

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