Archive for June, 2010

NYT “Wheels” Blog: Congress Considers Increased Interlock Funding

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Christopher Jensen, a contributor to the New York Times “Wheels” blog, reported recently that Congress is considering a six-fold funding increase for a government program that would make non-invasive ignition interlock technology an option in new vehicles. Jensen wrote,

“The device, which would automatically sniff the driver’s breath or use a light beam to test the alcohol content of tissue, would prevent drunken operators from starting the vehicle. There is no plan for the device to be mandatory. Those working on the project hope consumers will accept the alcohol interlock voluntarily because of the safety advantages.”

Currently, the interlock program operates on a $2 million annual budget, but that funding would increase to $12 million annually if the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 passes. The program is a collaborative effort between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 13 automakers.

Interlocks are a form of targeted technology that can cut down on instances of drunk driving, so we’ll be watching this program closely. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

NYT “Room For Debate”: Teenage Drinking Diaries

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Two weeks ago, the New York Times hosted a panel discussion about social host laws as part of their ongoing Room For Debate feature. Over the weekend, the editors posted some responses from readers in an entry they called “Teenage Drinking Diaries.” Many of those readers embraced a new approach to alcohol education that prioritizes moderation and responsibility. Here’s a sampling of their comments:

“I live near the Canadian border. Quebec’s drinking age is 18, and the drunk driving laws are very strict. My parents believed in demystifying alcohol. From a young age (around 12), my sisters and I were allowed to have wine on special occasions. I never liked the taste, or the effect. Aside from 1 or 2 occasions in college, I never felt the urge to drink once I left home. I’m in my 30s, and I haven’t had a drink in over 10 years.

I don’t have kids myself, but I’m also disturbed by the current trend of treating teens like infants until they turn 18, at which point they’re completely on their own. How can you develop a sense of responsibility when you can’t be held responsible for anything?” – Liz

“What would you rather have? Kids experiencing the effects of alcohol with the guidance of their parents, or kids experiencing alcohol for the first time with their peers shouting ‘chug, chug, chug’ at them?” – Dash

Check out the rest of this weekend’s Room For Debate post to see the other contributions, and let us know what you think in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, June 25th, 2010

As summer heats up here in Washington, we’re busy making plans for next fall, and we need your help. In the coming months, we hope to build on the momentum that we gained as a result of S.R. 17’s passage in Vermont, but we won’t be able to do so without contributions from our dedicated volunteers. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to [CR] today to help support our mission as we continue spreading the word about the drinking age debate while navigating these difficult financial times. Once you’ve made your contribution, check out these headlines for the latest news from around the country.

Stories this week:

On Wednesday morning, Friends of Recovery Vermont hosted a gubernatorial debate about substance abuse issues at the Turning Point Center in Chittenden County. During the debate, candidates were asked to state their position on the issue of lowering the drinking age. Dennis Steele, an independent candidate, said that he supported lowering the drinking age. Some of the other candidates were split on the issue – read the full Rutland Herald report to find out what they said.

Stephanie Miller, a contributor to the Lansing State Journal, asked her readers to support S.B. 408, a bill in the Michigan Senate that would create amnesty provisions for underage drinkers who sought medical help for other drinkers who needed it. She wrote, “64 percent of Michigan State University students indicated they would hesitate before contacting 911 for an underage friend who has passed out from drinking. Evidence supports that some students are resistant to seeking help because of potential legal ramifications…Although each family in this community may not have a child, as members of this community, it is our responsibility to take action on the problems the state is facing and to keep our children safe. It is essential that our young ones can contact emergency services if needed without fear of having an MIP on their criminal record.”

On Tuesday, we alerted you to a debate about privatizing liquor sales in Washington, and the debate recently popped up in Virginia when Sen. Mark Warner told the editors of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “I don’t think the state should be in the liquor business.” Check out today’s issue of the Times-Dispatch to see what some of the paper’s contributors think about this idea.

In other news…

A new study from researchers at Brigham Young University found that certain parenting styles can have a positive impact on the likelihood that a young adult will engage in binge drinking. “The study’s key finding was that supervised, supported teens are less likely to engage in the more dangerous drinking behaviors, which have become a growing concern,” wrote Deseret News reporter Sara Israelsen-Hartley. The authors of the study, which is published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, said that those parenting styles most likely won’t influence the likelihood that young adults will experiment with alcohol, but those parenting styles will affect rates of extreme drinking.

This morning, the Associated Press reported that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a state law which strips convicted underage drinkers of their driver’s licenses, even when those offenses are not related to driving. The Supreme Court ruling overturns the ruling of a Clinton County trial court, which found that the law violated a driver’s due process rights. What do you think?

Leave us a news tip in the comments if we missed something in this week’s roundup.

Wall Street Journal: WA Ballot Initiative to Privatize Liquor Sales

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Via Join Together, we learned this week that the retail chain Costco is driving a ballot initiative in Washington to privatize liquor sales. Under current law, liquor can only be sold in state-run outlets, while beer and wine can be sold in grocery stores.

David Kesmodel of the Wall Street Journal wrote that successful passage of this ballot initiative could result in “the most sweeping overhaul of any state’s alcohol trade regulations in years,” and that it could lead other states to rethink their own alcohol control laws.

What do you think of this ballot initiative? Check out Kesmodel’s full article for more details (subscription required) and leave your thoughts in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, June 18th, 2010

This morning, the editors of the New York Times posted a new “Room for Debate” roundtable on social host legislation, and asked their group of panelists, “Should Parents Be Jailed When Kids Drink?” David Hanson, a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the State University of New York – Potsdam, argued that social host laws can have dangerous unintended consequences: “Parents can prohibit drinking in their home and unintentionally drive their high schoolers to drink unsupervised in the woods, fields, older friends’ apartments, and who-knows-where-else. The results are sometimes driving while intoxicated and tragic alcohol-related crashes.” Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance expressed similar concerns: “When I ask young people about social host laws that eliminate the availability of parentally supervised homes where they can party, none say they’ll simply stop drinking. Instead, they say they’ll move the party to the street, the local park, the beach or some other public place. And they’ll get there by car.” What do you think? Check out the rest of the contributions from the panel of experts and then catch up on these headlines.

Stories this week:

Law enforcement officials occasionally recruit underage buyers to help them conduct compliance checks at bars and liquor stores. Last week, the New York Post conducted its own investigation of a group of local bars by sending a 20 year-old intern to buy drinks at establishments that had already been cited for serving underage drinkers in the last year. Check out the story to see what happened.

Ella Quittner of Time wrote about the rapid rise and recent fall of the “icing” trend that has spread across the country, and discussed the power that social media sites have to make these trends even more popular. She also linked to [CR] Board Member Barrett Seaman’s 2005 Time article called “How Binge Drinking Became the New College Sport” – read it if you haven’t had a chance.

Brittany Anas of the Boulder Daily Camera warned students to avoid the temptations of college summer orientation programs – last year, 15 incoming first-years violated the University of Colorado’s alcohol policy before they arrived on campus. In some cases, if a student is cited for underage drinking, he or she can be suspended for the fall semester before classes begin.

In other news…

Prevention officials in Missouri are concerned that state budget cuts which slashed funding for the state’s Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control will leave law enforcement officials with too few tools to enforce Legal Age 21. After the cuts, 17 liquor control agents lost their jobs, leaving just five to monitor 12,000 license holders.

Administrators at the University of Arizona are teaming up with the Tuscon Police Department and local liquor store owners to develop a comprehensive approach to reduce underage drinking, including a keg tagging program, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat. One UA student isn’t convinced that this measure will do much to reduce drinking except drive underage drinkers away from beer and toward liquor: “The person who is responsible for buying could not buy a keg, but something else. It might reduce keg sales, but I don’t think overall it will have the impact they want. It will just force kids to be creative and party somewhere else,” said Taylor Simmons. What do you think?

As always, leave us a link in the comments if we missed something in this week’s roundup.

Washington State Ballot Initiative to Lower Purchasing Age Hits Roadblock

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

An update from Washington state: the ballot initiative that hopes to lower the minimum age for purchasing alcohol to 19 may not appear on the ballot during fall elections unless its sponsor locates additional funding and volunteers to continue the campaign, according to The Seattle Weekly.

Dustin  Reischmann, a 21-year old philosophy major at Washington State University, began Initiative 1072 as an independent project for one of his courses. After the course ended, he continued to work on it and filed the necessary paperwork to begin collecting signatures in February. The bill would not allow 19-and-20 year olds into bars, but would enable them to purchase alcohol.

“It seems like the way we are addressing the alcohol culture, trying to push it under the rug, is actually creating more problems,” Reischmann said in a Yakima Herald report back in February. “My hope is that people become more responsible with their alcohol consumption.”

In order to qualify for the fall ballot, the initiative needs 241,153 signatories by July 2.  Reischmann admitted to the Weekly that he will not obtain the required number of signatures because he lacks additional money and volunteers, but hopes someone else will take over the fight.

In addition to Reischmann’s campaign, two other alcohol-related initiatives are aiming for the November ballot, which aim to eliminate state-run liquor stores in favor of privately-owned establishments.  Check out the Washington Secretary of State’s blog for more information on those initiatives.

For the full text of Reischmann’s ballot initiative, see here – let us know what you think in the comments.

KCRG-TV Examines Iowa City Drinking Trends After New Ordinance Takes Effect

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

On the heels of Iowa City, Iowa’s newly-instituted 21-only bar ordinance, KCRG-TV’s Jami Brinton talked to local business owners about trends in drinking over the past decade.  What she found shows a disturbing move toward binge drinking that is fueled by a shift away from beer and toward hard liquor among young drinkers. In some instances, the potential dangers of this shift are exacerbated by the fact that bars tend to make higher profits selling mixed drinks, encouraging bar owners to run specials on liquor.

One local bar owner, Leah Cohen, said that local establishments often report selling “85 percent alcohol and 15 percent beer.” She theorized that alcohol pricing has helped drive this trend: “To get a keg of beer now is probably about one hundred dollars, you have deposits, those sorts of things,” she said. “You can still buy a bottle of Vodka for 8 dollars in the store.”

Cohen offered a proposal that might help drinkers control their consumption if they decide to drink liquor: impose regulations on bar owners that would standardize the amount of alcohol offered in mixed drinks. Tanya Villhauer, a health coordinator at the University of Iowa, said she thinks this proposal could help customers keep closer track of the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed over the course of a given night: “I definitely think that should be something that is looked at and standardized across the board because then students who are choosing to drink know what they’re getting in that particular drink,” she said.

What do you think of this proposal? Opponents of the 21-only bar ordinance, including a group called Yes to Entertaining Students Safely, are gaining momentum to repeal the new law: they’ve gathered 3,500 signatures in support of repeal, and the City Council can reverse the ordinance or put it on the ballot in November.

Leave your feedback on this debate in the comments.

Please continue to follow this issue through the [CR] blog.

Readers React to Boston Globe Story on Tufts President

Monday, June 14th, 2010

In the June 13 issue of the Boston Globe, a number of readers responded to a front-page article on Tufts University president Lawrence Bacow and his unique approach to combating binge drinking on campus.  As described in the most recent [CR] Week in Review, after finding an undergraduate student passed out on his front lawn following a home football game, Bacow began the practice of summoning students who had been treated for alcohol intoxication to his office in order to speak with them about the dangers of toxic alcohol consumption.

Over the weekend, readers submitted their reactions to the article and generally applauded Bacow for taking a fresh look at the issue of binge drinking on his campus. Here’s a sampling of their comments on the story:

Stephen Nelson commended Bacow’s approach as a “sober, compassionate, and smart way” to deal with the issue. Amy Stein, a reader who worked with at-risk youth for years, expressed her desire to pursue an approach that stresses “prevention rather than response.” She suggested mandatory alcohol education and stress management classes for incoming first-years.

One writer, who worked as a substance abuse counselor at Tufts, worried that the trend of increased binge drinking may be symptomatic of a larger mental health crisis. She warned that students may be binge drinking in order to address a host of underlying problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions.

Reader William J. Holinger made the most controversial suggestion of the group: he attributed the spike in toxic drinking among young adults to the widespread nature of alcohol advertising, which has expanded online and into the social media realm.  He wondered if tougher restrictions on alcohol advertising campaigns might decrease instances of toxic alcohol consumption among students and young adults.

What do you think of these responses?  Let us know and leave your own reactions in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The early part of summer 2010 has seen some bizarre alcohol-related trends receive attention in the national media, from “vodka eyeballing” to the latest “icing” craze that is sweeping across college campuses. On Tuesday, J. David Goodman of the New York Times took a closer look at the “icing” trend and wondered if this new drinking game is really nothing more than a clever marketing campaign. Check out his story for more details, and then catch up on the rest of these headlines.

Stories this week:

After finding an intoxicated student sprawled out on his lawn one afternoon after a fall football game, Tufts University President and Amethyst Initiative signatory Lawrence Bacow adopted a one-on-one approach to combating toxic drinking on his campus, according to Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe. The Globe editors praised his efforts, writing, “Bacow meets with every Tufts student who receives medical treatment for alcohol-related problems during the school year. The session is not meant to punish or embarrass, but to try to get students to understand the inherent dangers of excessive drinking.” What do you think?

Eric Morris, a contributor to the New York Times’ “Freakonomics” blog, wrote about the effectiveness of laws that intend to curb alcohol-related problems by limiting its availability, and Legal Age 21 was one such policy which he discussed. Check out his post to find out where he stands on these types of policies and then send him some feedback.

Jens Manuel Krogstad of the Des Moines Register examined some data from the Iowa Board of Regents and noted that the number of alcohol-related offenses during the first quarter of 2010 is up 42% over the same period as last year. This increase comes despite the fact that this is “a time when universities across the country are attempting to curb underage and binge drinking among students.” In a follow-up blog post, he noted that the increase may be caused by a spike in alcohol-related offenses by nonstudents.

In other news…

Off—premise alcohol retailers in Indiana will now be required by state law to check the legal photo identification of all customers, regardless of age, according to a Join Together report from earlier this week. The new law was put into place after a police sting operation that found approximately 25% of underage drinkers were able to obtain alcohol illegally from convenience stores and gas stations.

Two fraternity members at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have been sentenced to prison after pleading no contest to hazing charges in connection with the alcohol-related death of 18 year-old Carson Starkey in December of 2008. Starkey passed away after a night of binge drinking at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The Austin American Statesman reported that the cases against two other fraternity members are still pending.

More news from the Hawkeye State: Iowa City’s 21-only bar ordinance went into effect ten days ago, and the Press-Citizen and the Associated Press have reports about the results of enforcement efforts so far.

Did we miss something in this week’s roundup? Send us a link in the comments.

New Study on Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Yesterday, CNN’s Trisha Henry reported on a new study conducted by researchers at Oklahoma State University and the University of Missouri which asserts that college athletes, when drinking, are more likely than non-athletes to consume dangerous cocktails containing both alcohol and energy drinks. When these athletes combined energy drinks with alcohol, their alcohol intake rose to twice that of athletes who consumed alcohol only.

The increased energy cocktail consumption observed among athletes led to an increase in secondary consequences: they were more likely to ride in a car with a drunk driver or to engage in risky behaviors that resulted in injury. The researchers also cautioned that the negative psychological effects of drinking caffeine and alcohol (a stimulant and depressant) together can be multiplied when consumed in excess. Dr. Conrad Woolsey, who led the study, told CNNthat excessive consumption of the alcohol-energy drink mix “can cause a sort of manic depressive state afterwards and over time can lead to anxiety disorders, especially in young people.”

With energy drinks already popular among young adults, this study provides more evidence that coaches, educators, and college administrators need to be aware of the potential dangers of mixing alcohol with these beverages.

Have you seen athletes mix energy drinks with alcohol more frequently than other drinkers? Let us know in the comments.