July 3, 2014

Editorial: On drinking, teach, don't ban

The debate over the use of alcohol in the United States continues, as a study released recently indicates that 88,000 people died from excessive drinking between 2006 and 2010.

Extremists see that number as a call for more regulation or even a total ban, while moderates point to history as a counter.

The statistics were compiled by the Washington State Department of Health and endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They say that 70 percent of the deaths claimed people between ages 20 and 64 and actually amount to 10 percent of deaths in that age category in that time.

The deaths were from health effects, car crashes, violence and drowning. The health effects were mainly — but not exclusively — from heart or liver disease.

The study’s proponents point out that the deaths resulted in more than just the toll of heart-breaking loss felt by people close to the victims. They also robbed America of productive people contributing to the national and local economies.

Surely, such numbers argue for some kind of action. More attention needs to be paid to the negative aspects of alcohol use — especially alcohol abuse. But, as for an out-and-out ban, that has not proven effective.

For one thing, let’s remember the U.S. Constitution: Government must tread very lightly and carefully in banning anything.

Alcohol can have positive personal, social and, in small doses, even health benefit. To ban something because of the abuses of the relative few would be entering dark territory.

And history reminds us of the mayhem that can result from overzealousness in such matters.

Prohibition was undertaken beginning with the Volstead Act in 1920 in a constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation and transportation of all alcoholic beverages. It was mandated by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Many of the movies and television shows we’ve enjoyed over the years had to do with the tumultuous period of prohibition. Eliot Ness, Al Capone and Frank Nitty, among others, became household words during Prohibition and much later, thanks to the foolhardy act of banning alcoholic beverages.

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