Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Binge Drinking Work Group Proposal

There was a story on WCCO yesterday about Binge drinking, and I wanted to let people know that despite how it may have appeared on the segment, I am not necessarily supporting banning happy hour or drink specials in the City of Minneapolis. What I am willing to do is follow up on the recommendations of our Our Public Health Advisory Committee and our Health Department, to create a task force to look into the problem of binge drinking and related City regulations and explore possible things we can do.

They brought this idea to the Health Energy and Environment Committee in December and we decided that before taking any action they should meet with industry representatives and then return to the committee so we could consider this further.

I am inclined to think that education is a better way to approach this, but I am also willing to see if there are some things we can regulate. I know some bars have some games and specials that other cities have banned. I also suspect that the vasts majority of binge drinking occurs in homes and outside of bars and clubs. There may be some drink specials or drinking games that a majority of the Council might agree are too extreme but I would suspect these would be the same ones that bar owners would also agree are excessive. I know that happy hour itself would not be one of them. I would also be very reluctant to do anything that would give business in neighboring cities some kind of unfair advantage and see benefits to having people drink closer to home where they don't have to drive a car.

I also acknowledge that there are serious, and sometimes fatal, health consequences to binge drinking and think a more careful look at the problem might help raise awareness and also identify some sensible and reasonable ways we can address the legitimate concerns.

Here is the proposal that will likely come to our committee for consideration later this month.

Request for City Council Committee Action
From the Department of Health & Family Support

Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee
Recommendations to Reduce Young Adult Binge Drinking


The 2007 University of Minnesota Health Survey showed that students who binge drank were far more likely drive under the influence, be taken advantage of sexually, do poorly on a test or project, miss class, and get into arguments as a result of their drinking.

Nearly 27% of 18-24-year-old Minnesotans reported binge drinking in response to the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. In this survey, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for males; and four or more drinks on one
occasion for females.

A University of Minnesota College Student Health Survey showed drinking in the past 30 days by 74.3% of U of M 18-24-year-old undergraduates

According to an analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2005 and 2006 youth reported having 4.9 drinks on the days they drove compared to 2.8 drinks for adults.

Studies reveal that alcohol consumption by adolescents results in brain damage - possibly permanent - and impairs intellectual development (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Volume 24, Number 2).

Alcohol is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students (Youth and Alcohol: Dangerous and Deadly Consequences, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 1992).

Alcohol plays a key role in accidents, homicides and suicides, the leading causes of death among youth ((American Academy of Pediatrics, information related to planning and promoting October 1998 Child Health Month, May 1998).

More than one-third (37.5%) of young adults (ages 18-24) in Minneapolis reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, more than half of these at least 3 times (SHAPE 2006).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the 21 drinking age has reduced traffic fatalities for drivers 18 to 20 years old by 13 percent, saving some 900 lives a year.

Studies by the National Institute of Health indicate that delaying drinking by youth contributes to reductions in alcohol dependence, binge drinking and alcohol –associated traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities and violence.


No single step is likely to be successful, a combination of approaches is needed in order to change the environment related to binge drinking by young adults.

The Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee recommends to the City of Minneapolis
that the City address the public health problem of binge drinking in Minneapolis by:
• Opposing legislation that would lower the drinking age
• Limit/prohibit the sale of 40 ounce malt liquor
• Banning or limiting practices by licensees that contribute to binge drinking, such as:
• Serving more than one drink to one person at one time
• Encouraging or permitting drinking games
• selling multiple or unlimited drinks for a fixed price
• The PHAC recommends that the City form a work group from the departments of Health and Family Support, Intergovernmental Relations, Regulatory Services, Police, and the City Attorney’s Office to examine:
• Current zoning and licensing standards for liquor establishments for the impact on access for and proximity to concentrations of young adults
• The resources for and impact of current enforcement efforts
• Possible collaborative efforts between the City, neighborhood groups and schools, colleges and universities
• Possible legislative initiatives that would reduce binge drinking

The PHAC fully recognizes that the problem of binge drinking is by no means limited to young adults and also recommends that the City pursue these and such additional initiatives as the w
ork group may develop in cooperation with community groups in addressing the broader problems of binge drinking by Minneapolitans of whatever age.


I welcome your thoughts and ideas related to this.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger DavidD said...

Hey Cam-

With the budget problems we are facing, is this really the best way for the council to spend its time?

Furthermore, it's not really the purview of Government to step into peoples' lives like this. It's not the happy hours, games and 2-for-1 specials that are killing people. It's the idiots, of which I was one in college, who go to the bar at happy hour and stay until bar close. That's not going to change.

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

Where in that report does it give statistics to show that "Happy Hours" are a significant contributor to binge drinking?

It seems the city council has too much time on its hands.

Any proposal before the council should include a verifiable statement showing a need and connection between the stated problem and the proposal.


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