Friday, April 1, 2011

More Evidence Drinking Age is Irrelevant to "Big Booze"

One common thought-terminating cliche that the pro-21 crowd loves to use to discredit their opponents is to try to link them to Big Booze (i.e. the alcohol industry).  But there is really no hard evidence that Big Booze would respond to changes in the legal drinking age with anything more than a collective shrug. 

A case in point is SAB Miller, the resulting multinational merger of South African Brewery and Miller Brewing Company (who also owns Coors and Molson).  Recently there has been some talk about South Africa considering raising its drinking age from 18 to 21 (which we hope does not happen), yet a recent article dismisses any claims that such a change would affect the company's share prices.  Why?  The quote below says the gist of it:

The general practice found in countries where the age limit for drinking is 21 is that those teenagers in the 18 to 20 years range ask legally-competent people to buy beer for them. This is also expected by commentators to happen in South Africa as well, as it does in many other parts of the world where 21 is the legal drinking age.
Coupled with another quote:  "Teenagers are not necessarily a huge part of SAB's business in the first place".  Not even in a nation like South Africa where the drinking age is 18 and very poorly enforced.

And there you have it.  No significant effect on the alcohol industry as a whole.  But what about the restaurant/bar industry?  Surely they would be affected, right, since it would shift drinking away from bars and toward underground parties?  In 1984, the National Restaurant Association understandably came out against the national raising of the drinking age in the United States.  However, they have since backed down once it was a done deal, implying that they had far bigger fish to fry.  And the alcohol industry overall has been relatively silent on the issue both then and now.

While neither the alcohol nor the hospitality industries are making any serious effort to reduce America's drinking age, they have both* been (and still are) fighting tooth-and-nail every attempt to raise alcohol taxes, restrict advertising, lower blood alcohol limits for DUI, increase sobriety checkpoints, and install ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers.  All while the groups like the distiller-funded Century Council ostensibly dedicate themselves to fighting underage drinking (while supporting the 21 drinking age), supporting tough penalties for underage drinkers and social hosts, and even "reverse-stings" to bust underage purchasers (as opposed to those who profit from such consumption).  Now that really says something about the effectiveness of the 21 drinking age versus these other countermeasures they hate in reducing heavy and problem alcohol consumption (which constitutes the majority of Big Booze's revenue) among all ages.  But groups like MADD are so gung-ho about the sacred cow that is the 21 drinking age that they fail to see this obvious fact about how their foes operate.

So where do we, Twenty-One Debunked, stand on the countermeasures the industry opposes?  We support them, for the most part.  We believe that the alcohol taxes should be raised significantly, for all beverages (except microbrews), with the tax proportional to alcohol content.  We believe that alcohol advertising should not be allowed to target minors, and should be restricted to the greatest extent allowed under the U.S. Constitution, similar to tobacco.  We support reduced blood alcohol limits for driving, with graduated penalties that steeply increase with BAC level, and the penalties for the highest levels should be much higher than they are now.  We believe that first offenders should, at a minimum, be required to have ignition interlocks if (not when) they get their licenses back, revocations of which should be permanent upon the second offense.  These folks are ticking time bombs that will kill someone if left unchecked.  And while we have nothing in principle against checkpoints that are conducted properly, we believe that roving patrols are more effective and cost-effective in catching drunk drivers and saving lives. 

As for the drinking age, if our wish is granted and it is ever reduced to 18, we would support tough enforcement targeting vendors above anyone else, and only very modest civil penalties (if any) against underage drinkers themselves.  Until that day comes, we believe that liquor law violations involving 18-20 year olds (and no one under 18) should be made the lowest law enforcement priority and penalites dramatically reduced if not eliminated.  The drinking age should also never be used as an excuse to violate the Constitution.  Social host laws, at least for those over 18, should be repealed.  And no one of any age should be jailed or receive a lifelong criminal record solely for drinking alcohol in a manner that does not harm others, as the punishment does not fit the "crime".

It should also go without saying that Twenty-One Debunked does not, and will never, accept even a single dime from Big Booze or the hospitality industry.  No offense to them, but our integrity is worth much more than anything they could ever possibly offer.

*One such industry trade group is the American Beverage Institute, of which MADD's turncoat founder Candy Lightner is currently a member (or at least was back in the 1990s) despite still supporting the 21 drinking age as of 2008.  Also, take a look at some of the supporters of one of the federal government's most prominent pro-21 websites.

No comments:

Post a Comment