'New bill will only lead to more extensive teen drinking' (illustration)
Photo: Index Open

Prohibition vs. education

Netanyahu would do well to abandon strict anti-alcohol legislation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recently exacerbated war on alcohol shows poor understanding of the teenage mindset. For some reason the PM believes that banning the sale of alcohol between certain hours and increasing the legal drinking age will put a stop to teen drinking. Apparently the history lesson of prohibition has taught him nothing.


The prime minister's ignorance of US history is a rather unfortunate oversight, since the bills currently being passed by the Knesset strive to emulate our ally's laws on alcohol. But more harmful even than the prime minister's historical ignorance is his obvious lack of research on current statistics.


If Netanyahu achieves his aims it will soon be illegal to drink before the age of 21, just like in the US, where a CNN poll has found that 70% of high school teens binge drink. In comparison with this glum statistic Israeli teens take on a rather sober appearance, if a recent Anti Drug Authority poll saying 40% of Israeli teens drink is to be believed.


Moreover, the PM and his cronies display a rather crude understanding of basic human psychology – it has been proven time and time again that bans and prohibitions only serve to render products more appealing: The stricter the ban, the sexier the product appears, especially to teens trying to impress their peers.


In reality, Netanyahu's new bill will only lead to more extensive teen drinking which, in addition to being more costly will also become more dangerous because illegality will stop many from appealing to authority figures for help as they slide down the slippery slope to addiction.


Economically the bills also display poor planning. Many store owners will have to purchase a special license to sell drinks, which will place a further strain on small businesses. In addition, the enforcement of such outrageous laws will require steadily growing numbers of police officers, funding for which will probably have to be taken from other areas in the State Budget.


Spend funds more wisely

Perhaps, instead of focusing on prohibition and scare tactics, Netanyahu should learn a more optimistic lesson from the very same US, where anti-drug programs such as DARE have significantly decreased teen alcohol and drug abuse. Instead of spending our tax money on enforcement, the prime minister would be far wiser to spend it on education.


The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, currently a mandatory part of the curriculum for fifth grade children in 75% of US school districts, allows kids to meet police officers in a friendly environment where the officers teach them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Netanyahu's plan, on the other hand, will only serve to paint the police in frightening shades.


While DARE gives children advice on how to behave if confronted with the temptation of peer pressure, Netanyahu offers them nothing but the threat of punishment. This message hardly relates to a teenage frame of mind, especially when the teens are Israeli and know they are looking towards three years of continuous “punishment” in the army.


Thus, instead of inspiring our future soldiers and protectors to drink all the more secretively, Israel's government would be well-advised to quit its inane war on alcohol and focus on educating its youth. The funds for these acrimonious laws would be far better spent on teachers and experts who can educate teens about the dangers of alcohol, rather than on hostile police officers to arrest them. With Palestinian terror, Lebanese militias, and Iran looming in the distance, it seems we could all do with fewer threats.


פרסום ראשון: 01.12.10, 17:32
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