Alcohol Rules v. Education and Peer Pressure

August 25, 2012

Alcohol is a social lubricant. It also kills indiscriminately. The way young people “learn” how to drink could not be more poorly designed. High schoolers learn from their college peers, who are old enough to acquire alcohol. Collegians develop drinking patterns at private parties, where ids are not checked and the alcohol is often more powerful and usually free. The patterns they establish in college carry forward into their adult years. The U.S. has a drinking problem because most people learn to drink without adult supervision in environments where there are no rules (or even good modeling behavior).

Boulder’s city council wants to use regulation and code enforcement to stem the tide. Government needs to understand its own limitations. Education and peer pressure have done more to influence drinking behavior than any other strategy. CU is, apparently, underperforming in this area, as our occasional tragedies demonstrate. Our responsible restaurants and bars need to be encouraged, and the ne’er-do-wells should be closed. Our existing laws, which apply across the board, provide more than adequate tools for making such distinctions.

Creating special rules for restaurants and bars on the Hill may incent students to frequent private parties or drive to establishments where such rules or close scrutiny do not apply. We can and should be smarter than that. We have plenty of laws that address aberrant behavior. Enforce those. CU should teach students to be more responsible. We’ll all be better off.

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