The efforts of the “Ta’ita’i Tama” and “Tualauta II Coalition” to nub underage drinking is being undermined by business ventures in the territory of American Samoa. I am not sure if these associations are aware that trades such as grocery stores, retail stores, and bars in the territory are permitting the sale of alcohol to customers under the age of 21 and tobacco to consumers under the age of 18.
The fault has not only befallen upon businesses in the territory but it is also upon those whom the public have entrusted to uphold the law, the Department of Public Safety (police force), because the police force is being ignorant of doing their job, by arresting minors under the influence or closing down bars that admit underage customers or writing fines to commercials permitting sale of alcohol and tobacco to juvenile clientele.
I write this letter from experience after being carded twice and came close to being turned away from a bar — the owner of the bar and security guards asked me for identification, which I gladly offered. However, when I entered the bar there were close to 30 customers consuming alcohol inside under the age of 21. Yes, I know of these consumers being underage as they are colleagues and associates.
When called the police substation in Tafuna for a response to the conditions which this bar operates, the cops showed up and escorted these underage clientele from the premises. There were no fines or disciplinary action taken towards the business for admitting underage customers. These juveniles were release with a slap on the wrist and that was the end of the matter.
Another incident involves stores on west side of the island—they are selling tobacco products to minors. These businesses are generating money by knowingly and illegally selling their merchandise to juveniles.
The question rises as what is the whole point behind alliances such as the “Tualauta II” and the” Ta’ita’I Tama” when local businesses are destabilizing their efforts to prevent underage drinking and sale of tobacco to minors.
I am furious, frantic and concerned to know that although such businesses are not only disrupting and subverting the efforts of such organizations, the local police force is not being consistent and aggressive in nailing down the hammer on such businesses for such reckless deeds.
As a third party observer from the outside, I am not only amazed at the level of incompetency within the police force and the general population in allowing local businesses to manipulate the future of American Samoa in such manner.
In the United States of America selling alcohol or tobacco products to juveniles is neither tolerated nor abided and is treated as a serious problem. If American Samoa as an Island society wishes to do good by its future generation and uphold the efforts of organizations like the “Tualauta II” and “Ta’ita’I Tama”, everyone needs to have an input and those who are chosen to endorse and advocate for drug free youth of American Samoa must do their job.
Jessica Pierce, T.S.F.
(Editor’s Note: I removed the names of the businesses identified in the letter as no one has been charged. Businesses losing their licenses to sell tobacco and alcohol because of such activities is not uncommon in the territory, with investigations originating with the DPS and then reported to the board that governs and regulates the issuance of such licenses. ra)