EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A group of teens spent Thursday hanging out at two Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlets, but they weren’t doing what you’re thinking.

Instead of soliciting booze from adult passersby, the students from Egg Harbor Township High School were there to discourage the practice of buying alcohol for underage drinkers. About a dozen teens from the school’s Stand Up and Rebel chapter converged on the stores, attaching to cases of beer lime green stickers that read “KEEP IT LEGAL!” in bold letters.

“Maybe people will think twice about breaking the law,” said Brock Burns, an 18-year-old college freshman who returned to help the group. “If you’re buying for someone underage, you’re still breaking the law.”

The penalty for adults who purchase alcohol for those under 21 is up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine, a fact included on the stickers.

Laurie K. Smith, a prevention specialist for Atlantic Prevention Resources, said the youth group is designed to teach students the dangers of substance abuse, but it also turns them into advocates.

Events such as the “sticker shock” day involve them in hands-on advocacy, she said. In this case, the students are taking an active role in educating adults about the law.

“It’s helping them realize the dangers of underage drinking,” she said. “And they’re also able to educate others.”

The demonstration, organized through Atlantic Prevention Resources and the Egg Harbor Township

High School Teen Center, is part of a larger effort to make it harder for teens to obtain alcohol. The program is funded by the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control through a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

A 2004 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that more than 94 percent of 12th-graders, 84 percent of 10th-graders and 65 percent of eighth-graders report that alcohol is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain. A recent American Medical Association poll showed that adults are the most common source of alcohol for teens.

Anna Peterson, a 14-year-old freshman from the Cardiff section of the township, said underage drinking is wrong for many reasons — not just the fact that it’s illegal.

“I don’t drink because I’d rather have a future,” he said.

Smith said the teens have been holding these “sticker shock” events on Super Bowl weekend for the last four years. This is the first time they’ve also come out the week before New Year’s Eve.

Joe Canal’s store manager Aaron Tasoff said he welcomes the work the kids are doing as another public safety measure.

“I can’t imagine why any retailer in our line of work wouldn’t want to be a part of it,” he said. “Some kids are always trying to get alcohol.”

Tasoff said the stickers augment what the store already does, namely checking IDs of every patron and member of their party who looks under the age of 30. The store also rousts any youths spotted hanging out near the entrance or parking lot.

“I hope people take notice that we’re paying attention whether or not what they buy gets in the hands of underage (drinkers),” he said.

Contact Wallace McKelvey:


Follow Wallace McKelvey on Twitter @wjmckelvey