Understanding Social Host Laws

What is the Massachusetts Social Host Law?

“The Social Host Law states that anyone, adult or minor, who knowingly or unknowingly furnishes or allows alcohol to be consumed by underage persons on their premises/property will be punished by a fine up to $2000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.”

Click to read the Massachusetts law in its entirety

The Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), a project of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, provides detailed information on a wide variety of alcohol-related policies throughout the United States at both state and federal levels.

Understanding the Issues - Social Hosting and Underage Drinking (download the PDF)

Why does it matter? What does the science say?

We know more now than we did even a few years ago about the impact of underage drinking on the adolescent brain and a young person’s long-term outcomes. The research supports delaying first use of substances until age 25, if possible- this includes alcohol.

Here are a few quick facts:

Alcohol use is bad for brain development.

• "Research suggests that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that have negative effects on information processing and learning." Source: facts/alcohol

• Research also indicates that “adolescents who begin drinking before age 14 are significantly more likely to experience alcohol dependence at some point in their lives compared to individuals who begin drinking after 21 years of age.” Source: National Institute of Health (NIH) Study, Find the study here:

There are other consequences.

• “Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a number of negative consequences, such as physical or sexual assault, unintentional injuries, memory problems, legal problems, and impaired school performance.” Source: National Institute of Health (NIH) Study, Find it here:

Studies find that the idea of teaching responsible drinking is a myth.

• “The researchers say there is little research to support the notion that it is possible to ‘teach’ children to drink alcohol responsibly. Their review ‘suggests that by allowing alcohol use at a young age, parents might increase the risk for progression toward unsupervised drinking more rapidly than it would otherwise have been.’ Allowing teens to drink may instill a sense of comfort in alcohol use, which could increase their tendency to drink, with or without their parents present.” Quote from: Find the study here:

Why do this campaign in Medfield?

The data says we need it. Rates of youth substance use in Medfield are higher than the rest of the MetroWest region. For example, according to the 2018 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, 41.7% of Medfield High School students used alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 27.7% of high school students in the MetroWest region overall. Medfield rates of high school youth alcohol use are 1.5x higher than the regional rates of youth use. Additionally, a large percentage of the Medfield youth who drank alcohol within the last 30 days gained access to it at home with parent or guardian knowledge (14% of 9-12th graders and 48% of the 2.5% of 7-8th graders who drank alcohol within the last 30 days).

Take a look at the data:

Medfield MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey Reports (2018):

 + Blake Middle School 

 + Medfield High School

Quotes from the community:

“The goal of the Medfield Police Department is to promote safety not only for the general public but for our youth in particular. We strongly encourage parents and other adults to act responsibly and not introduce alcohol to our youth. While enforcement is never our primary objective, we will pursue these cases to the furthest extent of the law in order to protect our most vulnerable population.”- Medfield Police Chief Michelle Guerette

“Many parents believe that they are doing their teens a favor by letting them and their friends drink at home. That was certainly the perspective in my home growing up - I thought, ‘at least my parents got one part of parenting right.’ Little did I know the implications of these decisions would challenge me for the rest of my life. I think parents who follow this logic are trying to do right by their kids. And, they may not know the wealth of research now that shows the highly flawed logic behind this idea of a protected drinking environment for underage kids. The Massachusetts Social Host Law isn’t a moral judgment.” – Medfield Parent

What is the MCAP Social Host Campaign and how is it funded?

The MCAP Social Host Campaign is a public information campaign aimed at increasing local awareness of the Massachusetts social host law and at promoting conversations around reducing youth alcohol use. To do this, MCAP and the Medfield Police Department have partnered to do the following:

- Approaching Local Businesses and Organizations within Medfield to:

 o Hang posters

 o Give out stickers

 o Post on social media

 o Direct people to this website

- Sending out newsletters through the Medfield public schools

- Writing newspaper articles

- Facilitating parent conversations (via Zoom)

 o informal, guided conversations

 o one public, a few private

If you are interested in participating or have a group you would like us to visit (virtually for now) please email Medfield Outreach’s Substance Use Prevention Coordinator, Meri Haas at

- Posting on social media

- Offering resources on this webpage

MCAP is a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant recipient. Our coalition has identified social hosting as a relevant issue in the community of Medfield and one we want to begin to address. We have used our DFC funding to support this campaign.

To learn more about the DFC grant:


Please feel free to download, print, and share.

MCAP Social Host Poster_Know the Law

MCAP Social Host Sticker

MCAP Talk to Your Kids_Social Host Poster

Links to Newspaper Articles and School Communications

- Medfield Patch Article

Tips for Talking with Youth about Alcohol and Other Drugs

What you can do to prevent your child from drinking:

1. Be aware of factors that may increase the risk of a child’s alcohol use

2. Be a positive adult role model

3. Work with schools, communities, and the government to protect children from underage alcohol use

4. Support your children and give them space to grow


Why you should talk to your kids about alcohol and other drugs:

1. Parents have a significant influence in their children’s decisions to experiment with alcohol and other drugs

2. It’s better to talk before children are exposed to alcohol and other drugs

3. Some children may try alcohol or other drugs at a very young age

4. The older kids get, the more likely they’ll try alcohol or other drugs

5. Not talking about alcohol and other drugs still sends kids a message


Talking to your kids: 5 parts (Talk. They Hear You.)

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse

2. Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs

4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll discourage risky behaviors

5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking and drug use


Talking to your kids, all ages:

1. Start talking about alcohol early, whenever it is relevant

2. Answer their questions

3. Set clear expectations

4. Give your kids facts before you think they need them

5. Keep communication open

6. Coach instead of trying to control

7. Have practice conversations with your child about various scenarios including alcohol

8. Make sure your child has other opportunities for fun

9. Raise a child who can say No

10. Be your child’s backup

11. Model healthy living

12. Foster emotional intelligence

13. Stay connected with your child at every age


Additional resources for talking to kids of all ages about alcohol use include:

Ideas for how to talk to kids of every age- as young as preschool.

A very resource rich page from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism about Making a Difference: Talking to Your Child About Alcohol

This page discusses the do’s and don’ts of talking with your kids about alcohol

Parent resources for talking with kids about alcohol and other drugs. Brought to you by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

PDF download of “Talking to Kids about Alcohol: A Guide for Parents and Carers” from the Alcohol Education Trust.

25 Conversation Starters to Find Out What Kids Think About Drinking. Appropriate for multiple ages.

How to Host a Teen Party

• Agree on a guest list—and don’t admit party crashers.

• Discuss ground rules with your child before the party.

• Encourage your teen to plan the party with a responsible friend so that he or she will have support if problems arise.

• Brainstorm fun activities for the party.

• If a guest brings alcohol into your house, ask him or her to leave.

• Serve plenty of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.

• Be visible and available—but don’t join the party!


Help Your Child Say No

Your child can learn to resist alcohol or anything else he or she may feel pressured into. Let him or her know that the best way to say “no” is to be assertive—that is, say no and mean it.

Resist The Pressure To Drink

Say no and let them know you mean it.

• Stand up straight.

• Make eye contact.

• Say how you feel.

• Don’t make excuses.

• Stand up for yourself.


Tips for Talking with Adults

“Getting to know other parents and guardians can help you keep closer tabs on your child. Friendly relations can make it easier for you to call the parent of a teen who is having a party to be sure that a responsible adult will be present and that alcohol will not be available. You’re likely to find out that you’re not the only adult who wants to prevent teen alcohol use—many other parents share your concern.”


• Call parents who are hosting a party beforehand

• Will adults be home during the party, and do they plan to monitor the teens’ behavior during the party?

• What are the parents’ stance on drugs and alcohol, and will it be allowed at the party?

• Show other parents real statistics regarding the dangers associated with underage drinking and social hosting

• Discuss what could possibly happen if they host a party where underage drinking could occur. Consequences could include jail time, fines, property damage, DUI, sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, violence

• Discuss the negative physical effects of underage alcohol consumption and the impact on school performance

• Research Massachusetts’ social host laws

• Explain that it is against the law to allow someone to drink who is under 21 years old. By violating the law, you are sending your teen and their friends a message that can have dangerous consequences


• You could pay a fine, serve jail time, and/or have your driver’s license suspended

• Your homeowner’s insurance may increase

• Legislation is pending in some states that would immediately suspend the driver’s license of any adult who knowingly furnishes alcohol to anyone under 21

• Another adult can hold you civilly liable, and any injuries, alcohol poisoning, or sexual assaults that occur may result in lawsuits

• You could be responsible for medical bills or property damage, or sued for emotional suffering or pain

• Someone could become injured or die

Cheat sheet from

Communication Tools - Social Hosting How to Talk to Adults


The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( leads the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision-making regarding beverage alcohol.

A campaign developed by the Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative ( – a group of local communities, Braintree, Milton, Quincy and Weymouth—that aims to share tools & resources to prevent youth substance use and help all young people in our community grow up to have healthy futures.

Substance Use Prevention Resources from the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office

Quick Social Host FAQ from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass DPH) and the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)

A very resource rich page from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism about Making a Difference: Talking to Your Child About Alcohol

This page discusses the do’s and don’ts of talking with your kids about alcohol

Parent resources for talking with kids about alcohol and other drugs. Brought to you by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

To learn more about MCAP’s Drug-Free Communities grant.

A link to the Massachusetts law in its entirety.

PDF download of “Talking to Kids about Alcohol: A Guide for Parents and Carers” from the Alcohol Education Trust.

25 Conversation Starters to Find Out What Kids Think About Drinking. Appropriate for multiple ages.

Participating Businesses and Organizations

+ Bank of America

+ Basil Restaurant

+ Be Charmed

+ Blue Moon Bagel

+ Brother's Marketplace

+ Bullards Market and Package Store

+ Butterfly Tree

+ Casabella Pizza

+ Council on Aging

+ Cutlets

+ Dunkin' Donuts

+ First Parish UU of Medfield

+ Italian Groceria

+ Jaie 3 Salon

+ Larkins Liquor

+ Medfield Food Cupbard

+ Medfield Foundation

+ Medfield House of Pizza

+ Medfield Outreach

+ Medfield Police Department

+ Medfield Public Schools

+ Medfield Wine Shop

+ Middlesex Bank

+ Natural Nail

+ Needham Bank

+ Noon Hill Grill

+ North Street Market

+ Nosh and Grog

+ Palumbo Liquors

+ Papa Gino's

+ Park Street Books

+ Precision Auto and Car Wash

+ Rockland Trust

+ Royal Pizza

+ Shaw's

+ St. Edward Catholic Church

+ Starbucks

+ Subway

+ The United Church of Christ in Medfield

+ Town of Medfield

Get involved! Join MCAP

Talking to your children and other adults in your child’s life early and often will help delay the onset of alcohol use.

If you are interested in joining the Medfield Cares About Prevention (MCAP) coalition or have any questions, please contact Medfield Outreach’s Substance Use Prevention Coordinator, Meri Haas, at

Follow-us on social media. Twitter, Facebook and now, on Instagram! @medfieldcares

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