Reminders that it's illegal to buy alcohol for people younger than 21 soon will be posted in liquor departments across the suburbs as part of a campaign by several substance use prevention groups.
"Project Sticker Shock" involves teens and adult prevention leaders in Addison, Buffalo Grove, Elgin, Mundelein, Naperville, Oak Park, River Forest and Wheaton who will gather at 1 p.m. Friday to place underage drinking warnings on bottles at liquor, grocery and convenience stores.
In 10 minutes, roughly five teens at each store will be able to place 200 tags on bottles of beer, wine and spirits with phrases such as "If they can't buy it, don't supply it" or "Don't buy for minors."
"It's meant to raise awareness for adult consumers of alcohol that underage drinking is dangerous and illegal and sends the wrong message to youth," said Jordan Esser, community initiatives coordinator for the DuPage County Health Department.
Prevention groups such as the DuPage County Prevention Leadership Team, the Stand Strong Coalition in Lake County, the Community Alliance for Prevention in Naperville, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists in Addison, and Positive Youth Development in Oak Park and River Forest have placed such warning tags before.
"This is our first time doing a regional effort with neighboring communities outside of DuPage," Esser said. "Collaboration is such a necessity when trying to get a public health message out. In DuPage County, we're not siloed. People go in and out of the county easily. It's better if you're seeing the same messages wherever you're going."
The coordination is in honor of Jonathan Petit of Carol Stream, who died in June 2005 at age 16 after an underage drinking party. Relatives including his father, Doug Petit, created a nonprofit group called Parents and Teens Together to address underage drinking.
Jamie Epstein, executive director of Stand Strong in Lake County, said her group is joining Project Sticker Shock in support of Petit and his work to help other teens avoid his son's fate. She said the timing of the outreach is important to remind parents not to supply alcohol for minors as they celebrate graduations or the Fourth of July.
"The community really can see our message when they're shopping for those parties," Epstein said.
In the days after past rounds of the sticker shock campaign, Esser said she's noticed the number of bottles bearing the warning tags dwindle.
"People are purchasing and taking the message home with them," Esser said.
That helps motivate teens to get involved. Under adult supervision, sometimes from police officers, teens will make quick work of tagging a variety of alcohol bottles in each store, leaders say.
The campaign also includes a reminder of state law related to underage drinking. Esser said the law states adults are legally responsible for underage drinking within their home, with or without their knowledge, and for the actions of those who drank at their home even after they leave.
"The best message parents can give," Epstein said, "is a very clear nonuse message."