Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wasted in Wisconsin

It seems that the state that the irreverent 1999 comedy film Dogma referred to as being "worse than hell" has a pretty bad drinking problem, according to a new report.  Wisconsin is apparently significantly worse than the national average in terms of "binge" drinking (#1 in the nation), heavy drinking, drunk driving, and overall alcohol-related costs to society.  The intensity of binge drinking is also the highest in the nation, averaging a whopping 9 drinks (!) per session.  And it should come as no surprise when we consider the things that set Wisconsin apart from most other states.

Wisconsin has the most lenient DUI laws in the nation (e.g. first offense is only a traffic infraction), one of the lowest beer taxes in the nation (2 cents/gallon), several major breweries, long and cold winters, and one of the most pervasive and ingrained drinking cultures in the nation.  Partying hard is almost like a religion in the Badger State, and not just among young people.  And this has been true for most (if not all) of the state's history.

While we do not dispute that the state has a serious problem with excessive drinking, and agree with some of their recommendations, we at Twenty-One Debunked do take exception to the report authors' strident pro-21 stance.  When Wisconsin raised the drinking age to 21 in the 1980s, it did not seem to solve anything, mainly because it failed to change the underlying drinking culture significantly.   If anything, the 21 drinking age likely makes things worse in the long run.  It would make far more sense to lower the drinking age back to 18, while also improving alcohol education, raising the beer tax, and toughening laws against drunk driving.  Only then would it be possible to create a more responsible drinking culture than the one they have now.  Of course, changing the culture will not be particularly easy, but it nonetheless can and should be done.  And Wisconsin would probably be the best place to start changing America's overall drinking culture.

1 comment:

  1. Punishment for drunk driving, first offense, is rediculous in Wisconsin because there should be jail time or a suspension of a driver's license. I wouldn't blame the climate of Wisconsin too hard because that can't be changed but alcohol education is an important step to get people in Wisconsin to be more responsible when it comes to alcoholic beverages. The drinking age should be lowered to 18 and when alcohol education is added, it will improve things significantly.