Ban on drink specials won’t stop binging

A proposed binge-drinking law won't curtail reckless behavior.

Few would deny that drinking is a significant part of college life in this country. Taken to excess, the consequences can be tragic, as a recent string of alcohol-related deaths among college students in the state attests.

One lawmaker, state Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead) has said he will be sponsoring a bill during the upcoming legislative session to ban certain drink specials, like bottomless beer cups and ladies-drink-for-free specials at bars statewide.

While we agree with Rep. Lanning’s goal – to reduce the number of college students drinking themselves to death – we don’t think his legislation will have that effect. Targeting drinking specials at bars is one thing the state has the power to enforce, but that’s not where the most dangerous kind of drinking occurs. Bartenders can exert a reasonable amount of control there, and stop serving those who seem to be at-risk. At house parties, personal responsibility becomes the first and usually only line of defense, and there is no easy solution or law that can be passed to remedy when that fails.

According to a recent survey, almost 51 percent of people age 18-24 in the metro area have admitted to binge-drinking, which is defined as four or more drinks in a sitting for women and five or more for men. That percentage rises to 60 percent in rural areas, and is higher in the Midwest than any other part of the country.

But bar drinking specials didn’t create this problem, and banning them won’t solve it. Perhaps we should re-examine the fact that we as a nation have a contradictory – some would say hypocritical – attitude toward alcohol. We grow up watching incessant advertisements on television romanticizing the bottle while legally withholding it until the age of 21, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone when our conduct is less than socially responsible.

No one wants any more of these incidents to occur, but ultimately personal responsibility should be the order of the day. Looking out for friends when they’ve had a bit much to drink and better enforcing our own behavior will do more to prevent alcohol-related deaths than ending drink specials, and we only have ourselves to look to in accomplishing that.