Over the summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Operation Prevent, a program aimed to curb underage drinking, which, according to syracuse.com, has been used to arrest 33 minors in the Cortland and Albany areas recently. The majority arrested were in bars with fake IDs. If Cuomo believes that supporting a policy of no underage drinking would be successful, as a history major, it’s my duty to remind him of Prohibition, the war on drugs, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and of their failure.
The program is only going to push students away from the safety of bars, and they will make even riskier choices when they drink. If the alcohol isn’t in the hands of someone sober and responsible, it will go to them or a friend, neither of whom may recognize the signs of their intoxication. There will always be ways in which a student can get alcohol, and if they can’t at a bar, they will go to either a fraternity or house party. At the bars, there are bar employees who have a liability to make sure a customer doesn’t become inebriated or injured. The bar employee can get a cab for you or give you water when they notice your level of intoxication, but at a party, they won’t always know or care enough to do so.
I think back to a death of a student last year at my former school, Onondaga Community College, where a student walked home from a party on one of the coldest nights of the year and died from hypothermia and acute alcohol consumption. Would it have been different if he was at a bar with a person that could have noticed and given him some sort of assistance?
The real issue the state government should be tackling is binge drinking. It is a serious issue that has been felt by many students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that binge drinking is “the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. It happens to a man when he consumes 5 or more drinks, and to a woman when she consumes 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.” This leads to serious health issues. Immediate ones can be alcohol poisoning, injuries related to inebriation and poor decision-making that can lead to pregnancy or STDs. Long-term ones include liver disease, neurological dysfunction, cardiovascular diseases, addiction, etc.
The roots of this problem lie in the culture in which people are growing up in. Ask yourself, what kind of effects do the copious party movies on Netflix have on you? I certainly have tried to emulate “Project X,” “Superbad,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Animal House” and others. When’s the last time you watched television without seeing an alcohol commercial? I don’t even think there was a time.
An effective solution would promote safe and social drinking to young adults while creating a safe environment for them. It’s normal for people to want to participate in social activities — that’s why they go to bars. There, they can relieve stress by being on the dance floor, being with friends, playing a pickup game of pool or by meeting new people. Also, a bar limits the student from binge drinking with the cost of the drink, the amount of time before they can get another drink, and the recognition of sobriety by the servers limits the student from becoming dangerously drunk. Another solution that I find very effective is offering alternatives. I commend Binghamton University for its Late Nite Binghamton programs, which offer live entertainment and activities for the students as an alternative to drinking, and helping to create a safe environment with its late night shuttles from Downtown Binghamton to campus.
If the governor is genuinely concerned with our safety, then he should understand that a successful program shouldn’t be based on failed policies from the past. He cannot stop the inevitable consumption of alcohol, but he can promote a safe and responsible use of alcohol while creating a safe environment for students similar to the one BU has created for us.
Joshua Hummell is a junior double-majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies and history.