At 14 years of age, the young alcoholic routinely bought beer at four different Utah stores.
"In general, stores are doing very well. But there are stores that become targeted," said Dr. George Van Komen, an internist and chairman of the Utah Alcohol Policy Coalition.Industry spokesmen acknowledge some stores are easy prey for teenagers who want to buy beer or malted beverages.
But a recent Utah Medical Association Foundation study showed only 4 percent of teenage drinkers purchase beer themselves. Most rely on older friends or relatives to buy them alcohol.
Beer sales can account for as much 35 percent of a convenience store's sales, but an increasing number of store managers recognize the risks of selling beer to adults who provide it to underage drinkers.
To help eliminate illegal purchases, the Utah Retail Grocers Association and Utah Association of Convenience Stores have developed an alcohol and tobacco management course to help train store employees to recognize underage buyers, adult buyers purchasing alcoholic beverages and intoxicated buyers.
One portion of the video workshop is devoted to stemming the sales of beer to adults who provide it to youths. The videotape instructs store employees to assert a personal or moral stand.
"If you say something like `You're not buying that alcohol for those kids waiting over there, are you?' It embarrasses them so bad, they just melt," said Daryl Alder, vice president of both associations.
Alder presented the video workshop Monday to members of the Utah Alcohol Policy Coalition. The coalition is a citizens peer group that helps draft legislation intended to curb alcohol abuse.
The 40-minute video was written by Alder and features Utah actors. The training package includes the video, workbook and instructors guide.
The training kits cost $60 each but cost $45 each when stores order 10 or more kits. The associations also provide rentals to stores who cannot afford to buy the kits.
Alder said the participating stores seek compliance with the state's alcohol and tobacco sales laws. Unfortunately, some store owners report they do not have the support of law enforcement agencies. Most police agencies have more important crimes to investigate than false identification cases.
Some agencies such as the Layton Police Department and the Cache County and Iron County sheriff's departments have been supportive of the program.
"We do need to encourage a partnership in the community," Alder said.