Officials: Binge Drinking More Common Among Teens Than You Think

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Knoxville (WVLT) - We begin the New Year with a new look at problems with underage drinking.

According to a new government report, binge drinking is becoming more common among children in high school.

In fact, almost two out of the three students who admit to drinking have five or more drinks in a row.

Researchers say binge drinkers are four times as likely to have been in a fight and five times more likely to be sexually active.

And officials say underage drinking is quite a problem here in East Tennessee.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford finds out what Knoxville and Knox County are doing to crack down on underage drinkers.

On Friday, Michael's license to sell beer was temporarily suspended after Knoxville Police caught a server there selling beer to an 18-year-old.

The Knox County Sheriff's Department says they're also taking action to stop the underage sales and save lives.

"We have young people getting a hold of alcohol that shouldn't," Knox County Sheriff's Department Captain Ben Harkins says his deputies deal with underage drinkers all too often. "Typically we see the younger people being less responsible and certainly alcohol being new to them, they have difficulty handling something as powerful as alcohol."

That's why the Sheriff's Department and Knoxville Police are working to stop businesses from serving alcohol to minors.

"A beer inspector actually goes out and has people who are under the age of 21 attempt to buy from local establishments," Captain Harkins says.

"I get a report every week where they may go out to 20 or 25 places and two or three of them will sell to one of their cadets," says Beer Board Chairman Steve Hall.

Knoxville's Beer Board Chairman Steve Hall says so many bars on the strip of UT's campus don't help the cause. "When you're in an area like that where probably 90% of the residents around there aren't of legal drinking age, that's always a concern."

And officials need your help cracking down.

"When they witness someone who is drinking alcohol and they shouldn't be, or trying to obtain alcohol and shouldn't be, we want to get a call from those people," Captain Harkins.

But it's not always businesses that minors get their alcohol from.

"A lot of kids start out with alcohol by obtaining alcohol from their own home." 48:58 "Parents, make sure their children don't have access to alcohol, just like we wouldn't want them to have access to a firearm," Captain Harkins says it's ultimately up to the parents to set the example. "Whether it's drinking alcohol or the way we drive, the people who are under 21 are looking at the adults to see what they're doing."

Captain Harkins says too many parents tend to believe their children would never drink, but that's typically not the case, and minors caught can pay hefty court costs and lose their license.

As we've seen with Michael's, an establishment caught serving to minors can have their beer license suspended or possibly permanently revoked.