If you need further proof that things like “blue laws” and typical Generation Y parental protectionism and the stereotypical Massachusetts pilgrim-like attitude toward, well, everything, are all alive and well, you need do little more than study the recent doings of State Representative Martin J. Walsh.

Walsh, (D-Boston) who covers a district that includes Boston College, is sponsoring legislation that would ban any alcohol-related advertising on state-owned property. The crazies in the anti-alcohol (and even the anti-advertising) lobby have joined, and they are calling on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (The T) to join in and ban alcohol ads on buses, trains and stations.

No other state in the US has such an advertising ban, which would eliminate things like billboards and limit advertisements for locally-owned wine and spirits shops, which is simply a bad idea in this economy.

“It is unfathomable that in the midst of an epidemic of underage drinking in Massachusetts, a government agency would allow alcohol advertising on public property,” said Amy Helburn of the collaborative, “Supporting an Alcohol Advertisement Free Environment,” in a statement supporting Walsh’s legislation.

The bill also has the support of a group called “Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.”

Because that’s possible.

Ok. You’ve heard the facts and seen what’s proposed.

This is never going to happen.

It’s a perennial bad idea like many that come up each year from a relatively new and a creepy alliance of teetotalers and helicopter parents.

Blast is the only media outlet that’s entirely run by Generation Y, so let me be as frank with you as possible: The ads aren’t screwing up your kids. Teens don’t start drinking because a whimsical frog says so.

Young people don’t start drinking because of commercials or billboards. Young people start drinking for two reasons. First, they start drinking because it’s (perhaps only in the US) considered a rebellious taboo. And second, the vast and overwhelming majority of American adults drink.

But that alone is a pretty poor argument against liquor legislation. The fact is alcohol is dangerous. It kills people and can lead people to do things that can hurt them or others. Like all vices, it’s users, especially young people, are not taught moderation. In fact, the only people telling us to “drink responsibly” are the liquor companies in their commercials!

I’ve seen lives ruined by alcohol, but I’ve also seen lives ruined by overbearing colleges that take away scholarships, throw students out of residence halls, charge fines and publicly embarrass students for a first time alcohol offense. I’ve seen college newspapers report the names of students that got caught with a beer in their hands. I’ve seen them come into my office when I was in the Northeastern University student government in tears when they got turned away from internships and jobs because of it. I’d need a drink, too, if my school just ruined my life.

HEY, OLD PEOPLE: Listen up.

Your precious little honor student is going to drink when he or she gets to college. (They’re also going to have sex, a lot, and they might even try pot!) More than 90 percent of college students drink. You wanna help them? Teach them responsibility. Teach them to know their own limits. Give them cash for a cab. Teach them the warning signs of alcohol poisoning so they don’t leave some kid in a bathroom to die.

Commercials aren’t the problem. There is a much deeper issue here. Alcohol, sex, smoking, marijuana, etc. etc. etc. The more you tell someone “no” without an explanation, the more curious they become. If Massachusetts is such a liberal bastion, they should do something really radical: teach kids safe sex and drinking in moderation.

Let’s start small: Colleges could give students the phone number of a cab service instead of a pamphlet of vague threats.

Just don’t waste my time trying to convince me that it’s all the commercials’ fault.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

2 Responses

  1. Lucas

    Fantastic piece. I think you touch on a point that no one ever mentions, that in the political sense the word “liberal” has been pretty much destroyed. A lot of people who love to talk about how much of a “liberal” they are then turn around and have a huge list of things they want to just outright ban, control, or lobby out of existence. Usually the same people who love to throw the word “epidemic” around as if it means “something I don’t like and have read an article about”. Usually the same people who see no irony in the fact that what you described them wanting is basically abstinence education, which they rightly hate, but for booze.

    Real liberal folks, maybe you should buy a dictionary.

    Again, great article.


Leave a Reply