Lingering Effects of Prohibition
Incidentally, in our society, the problems of youth drinking really began at the end of Prohibition in 1933. Before then, there were relatively few laws concerning age and alcohol consumption. When Prohibition was repealed, the various states attempted to control consumption by (in some cases) strict legislation. Since that time, the states with the most stringent laws (Alabama, Mississippi and Utah) have had the most trouble with alcohol related problems, while the states with the fewest laws (Wisconsin and Nevada) have had the least problems.
Educate Your Children
As I travel across the country, speaking mostly with homebrewers and professional brewers, I find that they educate their children about the joys and perils of drinking. In return, they are rewarded with the company of young people who enjoy the benefits of moderate drinking. Their kids don’t drink seven shots of vodka on their 14th birthday, and they probably will restrain their friends from that folly as well.
Homebrewers, as parents, are among the finest in our country. They come from all walks of life: judges and janitors rub elbows with engineers and health professionals. They are not drunken louts. At our club meetings and beer festivals, children romp merrily and enjoy the spectacle of their elders mellowing in their cups. They will grow up to enjoy the blessings found in a glass of world-class beer. And sometimes they will overindulge. Their peers will probably step in and take care to keep them out of trouble. Most of us adult drinkers have experienced that.
When I talk to the young folks I work with (as a swim teacher) from time to time, they tell me that they don’t want to drink with their elders; they are, after all, trying to escape from the vice grip of their parents.
The real problems from alcohol abuse stem from attempts at prohibition. “Just say no” and “zero tolerance” are not the answer anywhere in the world. Prohibition does not, will not, and cannot work. We must get real and deal with it. We need to educate our young folks to manage their lives around that fact.
We could start by lowering the drinking age to 16 when dining in the company of family or other responsible adults (parents, older siblings, etc.). Youth at 18 should be able to buy and consume low caliber beer (3.2 to 4 percent ABV) on their own, without direct adult supervision, but in public. We’ve spent too many years leaving our children to educate themselves, or to learn from “friends,” how to manage this very dangerous substance.
Of course, we could also raise the drinking age even higher, say, to age 35, and tax beer at a dollar a bottle. Then there’d be no youth drinking problem at all. They’d all be middle aged! Or would they? Prosit!