We live in a culture where alcohol is still considered somewhat taboo by a certain very vocal minority. That taboo causes another segment of the population, (also in the minority) to abuse it, ruining it for the majority of us. The best way to change that is to loosen the restrictions rather than tighten them. Alcohol consumption can lose it’s stigma by doing one very important thing; demystifying it in the eyes of the youth of this province.
Most underage drinking happens outside of the watchful eye of parents or other adults, leading to over consumption and the problems associated with it. The taboo makes it a rite of passage for rebellious teens. If it weren’t illegal it would be less of a problem. Currently it’s not illegal in Ontario for a homeowner to permit underage drinking in their private home as long as they don’t provide the alcohol. Which begs the question, if homeowners aren’t providing the alcohol, who is? Someone out there is breaking the law so this seems to me to be a stupid loop hole. Why not make it legal for a homeowner or parent to provide their children with alcohol in the home so long as they are present? If they are buying it they are able to monitor how much is being consumed.
Studies have shown when introduced at an early age, alcohol does not lead to alcoholism or abuse. In France children drink small amounts of wine at dinner, so it becomes part of the cultural norm for them. There is less desire by these children to go out and get drunk without parental knowledge. It ceases to be an act of rebellion. If children know they can try alcohol at home they see it as much less attractive and just part of everyday life.
While in Europe I went out for dinner with a friend and her 14 year old sister. The 14 year old asked her parents prior to going out if she could have wine with dinner while she was out with us. They said no, not because they were opposed to her drinking, but because they preferred she had wine at home with them where they could better monitor her consumption. She respected her parents wishes and drank cola all night.
This is the same country that allows people to drink a half litre mug on the beach or walk with a bottle of it in the streets as they browse the shops of town. There is a responsibility inherent in the culture because it isn’t forbidden, common sense actually prevails in the vast majority of cases. One only has to look to the failure of prohibition to see that legal restrictions don’t remove the social problems associated with over consumption, they only drive them underground where they cannot be monitored safely.
Countries like Germany and France are older and wiser than Ontario and really do know better. We should follow the example of cultures with far more experience and demystify alcohol and reform the culture that surrounds it. Liberalized alcohol laws make society a more accountable and responsible place, one that the temperance movement would eventually see is also a better place.