October 9, 2011

Look how far we have come

When I was a kid in Kansas, the liquor laws were such that you could buy 3.2% alcohol beer at convenience and grocery stores and 5% at liquor stores.  18-year olds could purchase the 3-2 beer, but you had to be 21 to buy 5-0 beer and hard liquor.

My parents had a local liquor store that they frequented.  It isn't as if they were lushes, but bought beer regularly and the occasional bottle.  Still, they were regular customers and the laws and enforcement were common sense enough that my stepdad would often pull into a parking spot in front of the store and send me in with the money to grab a six pack.  Thinking back, I am sure that the clerk probably waved, or somehow checked and acknowledged that I wasn't there on my own.  Even then, I am pretty sure that had the circumstances warranted it, my parents could have called ahead to the liquor store and sent me to pick up their order on my bike.

I don't doubt that there were other 8 to 12-year olds abusing alcohol during that time, but there was enough common sense in our society that a store clerk could make a judgement call and not go to jail for violating the letter of the law.

Same thing with cigarettes.  There used to be a cigarette machine in every restaurant.  Then, in 1997, our government stepped in and issued an enforcement edict bringing down an iron fist on selling to minors.  They banned cigarette machines in areas accessible to minors and started enforcing the minimum age to purchase.  I doubt that 14 years is long enough to notice any statistically significant reduction in smoking and smoking-related health issues.  It isn't too small of a window to notice the erosion of personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

I can tell you my two older kids were fully indoctrinated as to the 'horrors' of tobacco and alcohol through various, overly funded, programs like D.A.R.E.  So much so that I had to have a stern discussion with Boom several years ago when she started saying really derogatory things about people who smoked.  I appreciate the hazards, my dad died of lung cancer.  But that never made me a militant non-smoker.  I smoked right up until the day that the smell made me nauseous (which, incidentally, proved to be the first sign of pregnancy).  For me, respecting a person's right to make their own choices is more important.  But that's not the point I am trying to make in this post.

This morning there was a news story about kids soaking gummy bears in vodka, so that they can walk around appearing to eat candy when they are really catching a buzz.  The article makes what I think is a ridiculous statement:
"The problem with teens and alcohol today is that it seems to be more accessible to them.  There doesn't seem to be as much parental controls as there once were or was so it seems to be escalating more and more."
More accessible?  How in the hell do they think that?  Store clerks can go to jail for the simple act of NOT carding someone they sell alcohol to.  Parents can go to jail for parties at their house, if alcohol is found.  My experience is that today's average home bar is far less well stocked than the ones of my youth - where we could always find some bottle stuck at the back that wouldn't be missed.  (Not often worth drinking, either, but kids aren't choosy.  For the record, I do not suggest a straight vermouth buzz).  With the drinking age being 21, the usefulness of a fake I.D. or an older sibling willing to furnish the alcohol are far less common. 

I think kids are a lot more likely to narc on their peers these days, as well.  All of these things add up to less accessibility, IMHO, not more.  I find it hard to believe that the time when two martini lunches were common was less dangerous than now, with the stigma of Dram Shop restricting bars and restaurants. 

So why would an 'expert' say that kids have more access to alcohol these days?  Perhaps they have been confused by the statistics that come with stricter enforcement, lower BACs, higher minimum ages and better record keeping.  Whatever it is, I think everyone has overlooked the long term damage of taking personal responsibility away and replacing it with government mandates and MADD-induced guilt trips.

Just you wait.  Next year, there will be a minimum age and a system to track your every gummy bear purchase.

1 comment:

InsomniacSeeker said...

I can remember my cousin Belinda and I would go buy cigarettes for her aunt at the grocery store. And whenever she tried to buy them and pass it off as the aunt sending her down...never worked once. Small towns you gotta love 'em.