Bits and Pieces

Monday, April 12, 2004

Binge Drinking

Radley Balko has an interesting article on a redefinition of the term 'binge drinking' (hat tip: James Joyner).

Apparently the old definition was five drinks on one 'occasion' for a man, and four for a woman, a plainly ridiculous measure. I rarely go out with friends and drink less than five drinks, and I would never consider that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Anyway, the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) has now redefined a 'binge' to five drinks in two hours for a man, and four in two for a woman, a much more reasonable measure.

This reminded me of an article in the Mail on Sunday around 6 years ago. The article was written by the highly entertaining Bill Bryson, and was later included in the excellent compilation Notes From a Big Country.

The article, entitled Warning: Anyone Having Fun Will Be Reported, was about an odd notice in a bar in Hanover, New Hampshire. The notice read

We take our responsibility to the community seriously. Therefore we are introducing a policy of limiting each customer to a maximum of three drinks. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

He goes on to say

The thing is, the notices are in any case completely unnecessary. I have discovered to my dismay that when an American friend invites you out for a beer that is exactly what he means - a beer. You sip it delicately for about 45 minutes until it is gone and then your companion says, 'Hey, that was fun. Let's do it again next year.'

I don't know anybody - anybody - who would be so rakish as to consume three drinks in a sitting. All the people I know barely drink alcohol at all, never touch tobacco, watch their cholesterol as if it were HIV-positive, jog up to Canada and back about twice a day, and go to bed early. Now that is all very sensible and I know they will outlive me by decades, but it isn't much fun.

I've always been mystified by the fact that a nation that would defend so rabidly the right to bear arms would view such vices as alcohol and tobacco to be so dangerously licentious. Five drinks won't kill you. Calling five drinks in one sitting a binge suggests otherwise, and when we get to the point at which you can't smoke in a bar, and can no longer even have a drink in a bar, how is this anything other than prohibition by proxy?
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