If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Florida has some laws on the books that actually work well – and we should leave them alone.
Such as the law that restricts hard liquor sales to a store that primarily sells liquor. The same law limits and controls direct access to these stores by requiring customers to enter through a separate door facing the outside of the establishment. Both provisions exist to control – and thereby limit – access to minors.
When minors enter a liquor store, they immediately stand out from customers of legal age. This makes identifying and monitoring minors easier for store employees, and intimidates minors who realize everyone is watching them – and results in fewer sales to youth.
Under Senate Bill 106, big box stores would place liquor directly on their shelves – right next to all their other merchandise like diapers, video games or groceries. This change would allow access to underage employees, some as young as 16.
Why do we need special regulations for alcohol sales? Because alcohol is not just another product line – it is intoxicating and addictive, particularly so when used by those under age. Business and marketing practices – perfectly legitimate for selling other commodities – may cause social harm when the product is alcohol.
So why this law? There is no compelling reason to do this. Profits are high at the box stores and most consumers already go to multiple stores when they shop. Nobody’s complaining about having a hard time finding a convenient place to buy hard liquor. So the real agenda is simply to make more money. By doing this, they accomplish a major cultural shift in how and where alcohol is sold at the expense of our kids.
SB 106 will tear down the alcohol wall, give us lower costs, increased access and greater availability – the three factors in alcohol sales that always result in increased use. “Convenience” will begin an unraveling of over 100 years of laws and cultural norms that work. It will make it harder for parents to be a wall between their kids and alcohol.
Alcohol is by far our most abused drug. The first consideration for any change in alcohol regulation should be its impact on public health and safety, not customer convenience.
Existing laws regulating alcohol work. They make spirits reasonably available, prohibit over-the-top promotions that foster heavy consumption and strictly control sales to minors
What is good for business is not necessarily good public policy. Deregulation will result in serious social problems that are hard to reverse. Let’s not put profits ahead of public health and safety.
Current alcohol regulations work. They reduce youth access and have moderated alcohol use/abuse for many years. Lawmakers should not try to fix a good system that isn’t broken. Just leave the current law alone.
Bruce Grant is the chairman of the Leon County Responsible Decision Making Coalition and previously served as the director of the Florida Office of Drug Control.