Editorial: Dispersing drunkenness

By Jon Roe

The provincial government has put an end to the era of incredibly cheap pitchers at the Den. Thursday night jugs will now cost $9.75, according to tentative prices posted by the Students’ Union on Facebook, up from the price of $8 per jug and $7 in 2006. The new regulations, including minimum drink prices and limits to happy hour specials, will take effect Aug. 1.

The Alberta government created the regulations to “make provincial drinking establishments safer for staff and patrons,” according to a news release.

“They are not meant to interfere with responsible patrons–they are designed to limit the liquor consumption of those drinkers who don’t wish to set their own limits,” said solicitor general and minister of public safety Fred Lindsay.

Minimum drink prices should discourage unruly behaviour inside bars, but the regulations only address problem drinking in a narrow context.

A paper published in 2002 by Phillip Cook, a professor at Duke University, and Michael Moore, a professor at the University of Virginia, found that, consistently, the sales of beer, wine and liquor are negatively affect by increases in price after accounting for other factors. This dismisses the idea that increased prices won’t affect consumption, one of the central counter-argument to the minimum drink prices.

According to the paper, the majority of drinking leading to drunk driving occurs at bars, clubs and restaurants. Increasing the price of alcohol at bars will hopefully discourage this deadly behaviour, a definite positive of the regulations.

But, unfortunately, this policy doesn’t discourage problem drinking on the whole, as drinking at home becomes relatively cheaper. The kind of patrons this law is targeting, people who drink to get excessively drunk, are unlikely to be discouraged, drink at home and show up drunk. Though bars can refuse service and not allow entry, instead of the problem of a drunk patron being a private matter inside the confines of the bar, it now becomes a greater concern to the public at large.

All problem drinking should be discouraged, not just in bars. A tax increasing the price of alcohol across the board would have been a better solution.

Cheap drinks do encourage irresponsible behaviour, but the new drinking regulations only control this behaviour in a very limited context and will not affect alcohol consumption by the targeted troublemakers on the whole.

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