THE CURRENT CONTEXT:
An excerpt from an article by Radley Balko of the Cato Institute summarizes how the movement to harass consumers of alcohol is taking its example directly from the anti-smoking movements:
Armed with a slew of junk science studies from organizations such as the Center for Science and the Public Interest, the Center for Alcohol Marketing to Youth, and Columbia University's Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, anti-alcohol advocates are finding receptive audiences in state legislatures, Congress, and federal agencies for all sorts of nasty bills and public policy initiatives aimed at restricting your access to alcohol.
Just as they did with tobacco, they're attacking on several fronts. They want to raise taxes on alcohol, and restrict alcohol manufacturers from advertising on billboards, at sporting events or in mainstream magazines. They want to use zoning laws to limit the number of places alcohol is sold. They want to curb consumption with overly aggressive drinking and driving laws (and enforcement). And they want to force restaurants and bars to take a variety of other measures to encourage their customers -- you -- to drink less….
Twenty-two states have imposed restrictions on ''happy hour'' drink specials. A spokesman for the Fairfax County police department recently defended police raids on local taverns by telling the Washington Post, ''You can't be drunk in a bar.'' In Bloomington, Ind., cops began arresting of-age college students for walking home from off-campus bars while intoxicated. When asked if he'd rather drive students home, a Bloomington cop told the Indiana Daily Student, ''Alcohol abuse is the problem, not whether or not you're going to be driving.''
Forty-four states now have laws that hold bar owners liable for any damages caused by their alcohol-consuming customers, after they leave the bar. Another 31 states apply those same liability standards to private residences. In Chicago -- a town rich with the lessons of Prohibition -- 400 of the city's 2,705 precincts are now dry, and each election adds a few more.
None of this happened by accident. A well-funded, well-organized campaign is afoot to make it as difficult to drink a beer as it is becoming to smoke a cigarette. This ''neo-prohibition'' has advocates in the news media, academia and most certainly in government. Sandy Golden, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Kids, has said, ''We're 10 to 15 years behind the tobacco people, and we want to close the gap.
The article concludes with the following observation: "You thought it was absurd when city and state officials told you that you could no longer smoke in a bar. Just wait until they tell you that you can't drink in one, either."
Because most Western countries reject restrictions on alcohol based on religious or moral impulses, the campaign is often being pursued via the backdoor of concern for drunk driving (just as the "de-normalization" of smoking is pursued through the backdoor exaggerated issue of second-hand smoke).
Just as Canada, and then Europe, replicated the American approach to tobacco control with a delay of a few years, we have already seen parallels. Bar and restaurant owners in Canada are now also being held liable for the actions of customers that leave their premises. In 2001, an Ontario Real Estate firm was found liable for one of its employees who drank alcohol at the office Christmas party and then became involved in a drunk-driving accident – they were ordered to pay $300,000 to the employee. The judge ruled that "employers must protect employees from harm, even at a jolly Christmas party, even if the employee drinks to excess, gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, is involved in an accident and is convicted of drunk driving." In British Columbia, hosts of private parties at their homes were found liable for the actions of their intoxicated guests after they left the party.
For an excellent and entertaining resumé of the folly of prohibition in the U.S., please refer to the paper by Bob Ramsay at http://www.dpft.org/history.html "A History of U.S. Drug Laws". If anyone wants to see what government policies regarding alcohol will look like in Canada within 10 years, they need only look at the anti-smoking campaign today, or emerging alcohol policies in the United States.
Health care professionals and policy experts in the course of their careers generally migrate back and forth between various issue areas, taking expertise learned from campaigns against smoking to alcohol or obesity, or vice versa. Hence the same actors who intend to trample over fundamental liberties to eradicate smoking, obesity or sporting injuries argue for similar multi-pronged government invasions to diminish alcohol consumption. Special interest groups modeled after anti-smoking organizations, such as Campaign for Alcohol-Free Kids (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) also frequently advocate invasive legislation. Other groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, should not be seen as opposing CAGE, since CAGE agrees strongly with strict penalties for drunk driving and an emphasis on personal responsibility for one’s actions. CAGE’s disagreement only comes into play when the issue is extended to absurd lengths, such as finding the hosts of parties or the owners of bars liable for the poor judgement and criminal negligence of others, or some of MADD’s more recent recommendations which border upon the preposterous. (see: MADD press release, 14 June 2005.)
Additionally, some devout religious groups can be expected to support increasing curbs on public consumption of alcohol.
"Prohibition... goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's
appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes... A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."... Abraham Lincoln ( December 1840, taken from the website of CLASH, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment)
Allies include groups mobilized to counter the smoking-ban movement such as CLASH, cited above. Such groups have understood the larger nanny-state phenomena afoot in the West, and oppose puritan-minded interventions on other issues such as alcohol irrespective of their own preferences. The same holds true for libertarian organizations. Industry groups such as brewing and liquor companies, the Canadian Food and Restaurant Association and various bar associations also strongly oppose government encroachment on the alcohol issue, but are hampered by their obvious financial agenda on the issue.
Some other groups, such as "Modern Drunkard Magazine," promote an irresponsible abuse of alcohol (albeit in an amusing manner) – although these groups may heartily agree with aspects of CAGE’s mission, their philosophy and approach differs greatly. CAGE has no links to such groups.
Groups such as MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers are philosophical allies of CAGE's insofar as they seek to reinforce the concept of personal responsibility for one's actions. CAGE only hopes that the directors of MADD will abandon their recent trend toward preposterous recommendations, such as extremely low alcohol limits for driver, and even a zero alcohol tolerance for the person in the passenger seat beside the driver. Such extreme positions decrease the credibility of MADD. and reduce the effectiveness of its important message and mission.
CAGE will appeal to liquor and brewing corporations for funding. In New York, Rheingold Brewing ran a series of advertisements poking fun at Mayor Bloomberg’s "quality of life" initiatives, which indicates that some alcohol industry actors have come to the same conclusion as CAGE regarding the slippery slope of nanny-state intervention.
While CAGE strongly endorses efforts to stop drunk driving, it deplores any hypocritical and invasive approach to alcohol control. Laws forbidding anyone from operating motor vehicles or heavy equipment while intoxicated are clear and necessary; laws forbidding the sale of alcohol (so-called "dry counties" in the United States) impose one set of values on everyone. Jurisprudence holding someone liable for the intoxicated behaviour of someone else also threatens to yank society back to Medieval Europe or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – both places where families were held strictly liable for the behaviour of each of their members. Once again, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions – in this case, the intentions of the nanny state and concerned health activists.
CAGE would like to remind everyone that each individual is responsible for their own actions, and people should therefore consume alcohol in moderation. Intoxication impairs judgement, and responsibility for maintaining good judgement must remain with each individual. Ironically, a society riddled with too many lifestyle restrictions and nanny-state interventions may encourage people to drink to excess in an effort to break free and forget about it all!