OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Since 1997 Project Extra Mile has checked almost 12,000 businesses in the Omaha metro. And 13 percent of those businesses checked have sold to minors.
“While it may be culturally accepted, it's illegal so we want to make sure that these businesses are not selling to youth and adults in the community are not providing alcohol to youth,” said Project Extra Mile executive director, Chris Wagner.
He said the group has been working with local law enforcement to stop the sale of alcohol to minors for over 20 years. “There are a lot of harms that are associated with alcohol consumption for underage youth, it affects their brain development, it affects their grades at school,” said Wagner.
He said it's also more likely to become a long-term problem. “If an underage youth, by the age of 15, has already had their first drink they're six times more likely to be alcohol dependent later in life than someone who waits until 21,” said Wagner.
He said while Project Extra Mile has made progress reducing underage drinking, Nebraska still has the sixth highest binge drinking rate for people 18 and older and DUI rates are the second highest. To change these statistics Wagner said there needs to be a change to policies. “Looking at for example raising alcohol taxes which haven't been done in the last 15 years and it has really proven to reduce underage drinking,” he said.
But the biggest change starts at home in the community. “We also as a community need to come together and make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent it,” said Wagner.