No booze? We lose.

14 Dec

This post was inspired by an article that the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper posted in a group on Facebook.

The issue at hand? Alcohol advertising in college newspapers. More specifically, the Supreme Court refused to review a case in Virginia involving a ban that two college newspapers have contested as unconstitutional.

It's like Prohibition, baby! Kind of.

Now, I’m no legal expert. My experience with the First Amendment extends to a three-credit hour class that I just finished taking. (Shout out to Professor Reinardy! Holla.) But I have some questions about the constitutionality — and above all the logic — of bans like these.

For one, these ads aren’t promoting anything illegal. Sure, a portion of college newspapers’ readerships can’t legally drink. But I bet well over half can — once you count the faculty, staff and non-traditional and graduate students. And anyways, if it’s truthful and valuable information (and I’m sure some people consider this to be valuable) then it receives limited Constitutional protection.

And if it’s binge drinking the legislators are trying to stamp out by doing this — which I’m sure it is — I say they have about as much of a chance of succeeding as Hell does of freezing over.

Not the one in Michigan.

They’re taking on a college culture that has been set in its ways for decades.  I don’t support binge drinking, but I certainly don’t see it going anywhere. Not even if you take away advertising like this. Because any good college student already knows where the good drink specials are. And where to get cheap beer. And which liquor stores are most likely to accept your fake ID. Sorry, but it’s true.

Plus, newspaper ads aren’t the only way “happy hour” information can be found. There are entire websites and smartphone apps dedicated to this sole purpose. Good luck controlling the Internet.

In the end, laws like these won’t hurt drinking establishments or the popularity of binge drinking; they’ll hurt college newspapers. We need this advertising revenue. Sure, we have a relatively captive market. And most of our staff works for free (I can attest to this firsthand.) But we still need to make money, and alcohol advertisements are a large part of this. There’s a weekly drink special chart on the back of our newspaper’s sister magazine. It’s big bucks.

Gosh, I hate it when I have this problem at the grocery store.

And legislators are forgetting the crusade many college newspapers have waged to help curtail binge drinking. I know our newspaper, for one, has written many articles on the activity and its dangers. Most recently, we covered the debate on Four Loko, a popular energy/alcohol drink that has since been taken off of the market.

In a nutshell, legislators are making a big mistake with this one. I ask them to think back to their own college days. Would a ban like this have made a difference to them or their friends? I seriously doubt it.

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