Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beer wholesalers: it's all about the children

Jay Brooks goes off in response to a press release from the National Beer Wholesalers Association re a response to the Surgeon General's request for a position on underage drinking. (Got all that? I'm trying to be concise here.)

The section of the press release that got his (and my) blood pumping:

... the states’ ability to effectively restrict the sale and distribution of alcohol is the key to keeping beverage alcohol out of the hands of our youth.

Effective state regulation is under increasing attack as various economic interests attempt to deregulate alcohol and otherwise weaken the states’ abilities to strictly control alcohol sales. As a result, some states have been forced to open their borders to Internet sales of all alcohol beverages. Such anonymous access presents a major challenge to the states’ fight against underage drinking, as consumers receive deliveries from out-of-state sellers who can not be effectively regulated by the state.

Indeed, in a study released last year, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 10 percent of all minors have actually obtained alcohol over the Internet. [emphasis added]

Did you get that? Never mind the string of shaky premises at work here (including, but certainly not limited to, the very absurdity of setting the drinking age 3 years beyond the age at which one can be conscripted and--in some states--executed, that "underage drinking" is a "health problem" rather than a "consequence of a policy decision", or that an association of businesses that don't even sell to the general public ought to be weighing in on this matter at all), the NBWA is actually taking the position that internet sales are the greatest challenge to keeping underage "kids" from getting their hot little hands on alcohol.

OK, folks. Project yourself back in time to being, say, 19 years old. You want to drink. Which seems the path of least resistance?

A) Go to a party where the booze has already been purchased.
B) Get your slightly older friend/sibling/significant other to go buy something for you.
C) Go the bar where your friend works and won't ID you.
D) Go to the bar where nobody gets ID'd
E) Get a fake ID
F) Sign up for the Beer of the Month Club, which will require 1) the credit card of someone of age (i.e., not you), 2) that the credit card be tied to an address at which you can receive your monthly delivery, 3) that the courier company not have its own policies in place about checking ID when they deliver alcohol (which DHL certainly does, I can tell you--more on that in a moment), and 4) that you pay, after S&H, just over $3 per beer for 12 beers. A month.

If you answered, oh, pretty much anything other than F, you win the prize. It's a beer. That I will have shipped to you once I have conducted a complete background check and collected a urine sample.

As a semi-relevant aside, I recently canceled my subscription to a beer of the month club because the deliveries were such a hassle. Because they wouldn't deliver it to my house when no one was there (and my wife and I having the odd habit of working during the day), I had to have it delivered to work. I didn't get ID'd or anything when it came, but it was a pain in the ass to lug it home. Kind of defeats the purpose of having it "delivered", you know? Anyway, if it's that much of a hassle for someone who's been legal for the better part of a decade, I can't imagine that this is a common tactic among the "kids" these days.

And that 10% figure is just beyond ridiculous. (Jay does the math in his post.)

Jay says quite a lot about all of this, too. The best part:

I confess I’m really quite tired of giving up my rights as an adult so that children will be protected. Not only does it not ever work, but we should not be willing to create a society that’s fit only for kids on the off chance that a child will have access to something we’ve decided he shouldn’t see, or hear or taste. There’s already a mechanism in place to combat those problems and it’s worked pretty well for millenia — it’s called parenting. I’m an adult. I want to live in an adult world. I don’t want anybody telling me or my child what’s good and what’s bad for him. That’s my job.

That the NBWA is attempting to use this opportunity to squash some serious competition for its members is really not that big of a deal. They're acting in their perceived self interest, and that's ultimately their job. Fine.

What bothers me is that the government actually tends to take this sort of advice seriously.


  • At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I couldn't agree with you more. Having orded beer and wine over the internet hassle to obtain the shipement is incredible whether its DHL, FED EX, or UPS I have had issues with all three trying to line up an opportunity to recieve my orders.....I can not believe the 10%...its too absurd for words.

  • At 11:38 AM, Blogger David Larsen, fine artist said…

    I tend to stay away from political arguments on my own blog. However, this clearly falls under the category of legislating morality, which, in my opinion, is a huge no-no.

    It seems like someone is always trying to sneak in the same ideas that fueled the temperance movement and prohibition, but in a more stealthy form.

  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger David Larsen, fine artist said…

    By the way, by saying that I stay away from political arguments, I'm not suggesting that you do the same. I would never do that. Instead, I'm say that I don't want people to guess my political affiliation by my comments, on or off my blog.

  • At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My urine sample is in the mail. As for the background check, don't worry, you can trust me :-)

  • At 4:18 PM, Blogger chris said…

    I received a gift subscription to a BOTM club. I got three deliveries. Never once was my ID checked. Nor did I even have to be home. The first two waited on my doorstep for me to get home. I was home for the 3rd, but I got to the door just in time to see the DHL delivery guy running down the stairs and hopping in his truck with my package sitting on the doorstep. The funny part? There's even a big frickin' sticker on the top of the box that says 'check ID.' Didn't happen, so maybe the beer delivery to minors happens. I seriously doubt to the tune of 10% of minors. That's absolutely made up.

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