Alcohol checkout ban is under the influence

by Chris Pocock

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There are certain fundamental tenets our country is founded on: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the obvious ones, which, if you channel your high school U.S. history class, you’ll remember are central to the Declaration of Independence. But there’s an unlikelier principle, once sacred to our country, now under fire in the city of San Francisco: the right to conveniently purchase booze.

Somehow, through the centuries following our nation’s conception, we Americans have lost touch with our country’s drinking side. According to travel logs aboard the Mayflower, the first settlers in America chose to settle in Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer provisions. George Washington won his first election after distributing alcohol to would-be voters. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in a tavern. Even Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride was supposedly fueled by a few glasses of rum. If freedom beats steadily in Lady Liberty’s bosom, then alcohol digests slowly in her liver — provided she remembered to bring her driver’s license to Samuel Adams’ neighborhood tavern.

I’m not arguing “Shots, shots, shots” should be our nation’s new national anthem (nor am I arguing against it). But truly, the America we live in today is a far more sober nation than how it started. Nowhere is that point clearer than San Francisco’s push to ban the purchase of alcohol through self-checkout machines in grocery stores statewide. Citing a study performed by our very own San Diego State, research showed “vulnerabilities in self-checkout machines which allowed minors to purchase alcohol without providing age verification.”

According to the study, self-checkout machines failed to flag alcohol purchases about 9 percent of the time, but in nearly all of those instances store employees arrived quickly to check IDs.

Clearly underage drinking is irresponsible, and I’m not going to suggest otherwise. But I question banning this ultra-convenient method of purchasing alcohol based on the assumption minors are hijacking the system to their benefit, especially when ending this convenience is seen as an end-all, be-all solution to underage alcohol abuse. Or, in the words of Bruce Lee Livingston, CEO of alcohol watchdog group Marin Institute, a contributing factor to “violent crime, car crashes and high-risk sex.”

But preventing underage drinking is not the only reason AB183, which recently passed the California State Senate, is being pushed to pass. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is using this bill as an opportunity to force grocery stores, which have increasingly replaced employees with the more convenient self-checkout machines, to hire more workers.

The truth is, banning alcohol sales in self-checkout machines will not end underage drinking. What it will do is take away a convenience all Americans enjoy to fuel special interest groups — one of the very things tearing our country apart. Americans, defend your right to buy alcohol conveniently. Raise your glass to alcohol-purchasing freedom, and toast our patriotic history as an alcohol-imbibing nation. Cheers.

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