America has a long history of stubborn resistance to applying logic, science and just common sense to our intoxication problem. For more than 30 years the DARE program has been in 80 percent of school districts. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II and Obama have all had a "national DARE day" and yet, in 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher placed the DARE program in the category of "ineffective." In 2003 the office went further and claimed it may even have a boomerang effect and increase drug use. As someone who sits many hours with each years new class of rehab kids, I have heard about the DARE program everything from "it was bullshit" to 'it made me want to try what they were saying not to" even "I hated them because they kept saying what losers alcoholics were and my dad is an alcoholic." Perhaps the most concerning thing I have heard was "the cop who taught it hit on me." A decade after the proclamation from David Satcher, we still have the DARE program. It begs a 12 step culture cliché: when nothing changes, nothing changes.
At this point, we can safely accept that intoxication is part of the human condition, it has been since cavemen first fermented fruit and yet, year after year we try to give stern warnings to youth and expect that will do the trick that did nothing for the previous generation. So what does work?
And when drinking goes down, so does: violence, vandalism, visits to the ER from uninsured, accidental pregnancy, and STD's, the list goes on and on. It would make sense, since the data demonstrates that higher taxation works to try it, what is there to lose? While we all love the cute and cuddly (read: weird and creepy) DARE lion, why not use what is shown to work? More than likely, the alcohol lobby is at work here and they don't want to see any tax hikes. They seem to know that if that were to happen, they would sell less of their product. The community would certainly benefit from more revenue and as an added bonus, people drink less and therefore cause less damage.
Many states have not raised taxes on alcohol in generations, the most egregious of these is Wyoming. Beer, the beverage of choice for the underage drinker and frat boy, is taxed .02/100 in Wyoming with the last tax raise in 1935. Think of it in these terms: Saturday night, 20 college kids and a keg of beer (15 gallons). Not hard to imagine something going wrong all of which is financed by the tax-payer because the state got .30/100 for that keg of beer. To be fair, Wyoming seems to have some decent programs for families and individuals plagued by alcoholism. They even have REACH high school, an innovative program to help youngsters in recovery. Governor Matt Mead seems to have a concern on the matter and sponsored many efforts to curb underage drinking and alcohol abuse. Curiously void from these efforts is what research says is the most effective; a tax hike. When asked about taxation in his state, Governor Matt Mead had this to say "Alcohol and substance abuse are serious problems across America including here in Wyoming. I believe we have come a long way in creating better prevention and treatment programs, but we should always look to improve. One area where I know we have room for growth is in programs for our youth. I support concepts that try to innovate and target teenagers. I will continue to look for collaborations to reduce alcohol abuse and underage drinking."
I have a way to innovate governor, let's ignore the alcohol lobby and raise taxes on beer in your state, with the revenue dedicated to treatment, recovery, and family services. Just for fun, let's take all the kids at REACH high on a fun sober vacation. I'll chaperone.
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