Missouri moving forward with bill to curb underage drinking

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JEFFERSON CITY - A bill intended to curb underage drinking and smoking is gaining steam in the Missouri Legislature. 

The Missouri House moved forward with the bill Thursday, one day after the Senate approved a measure that would make 70 percent of fees from the alcohol and tobacco licenses and permits go toward funding for the state's Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

The money would then be spent to enforce laws like drinking age around the state. 

Boone County Detective Tom O'Sullivan said most of the problems in enforcing underage drinking requirements come around college campuses. 

"I think underage drinking is a substantial problem," O'Sullivan said. "Obviously Columbia is a college town. It's going to be a constant battle to try to curb underage drinking."

The bill could potentially give the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control an additional $3.3 million each year. 

"In the whole budget of the state of Missouri, that's not a whole lot of money," O'Sullivan said. "But it's better than nothing."

O'Sullivan said stricter penalties for bars that break underage drinking laws would be the best way to prevent underage drinking, rather than additional funding.

"A law is only as good as what type of bite comes with it," O'Sullivan said. "Some bars in this town, for years, have looked upon penalties for selling to minors as just a cost of doing business. Making the penalty more severe will serve as a deterrent."

The bill has been sent to the Public Safety Committee in the House.