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Mark Kleiman, who wrote a great book on crime-prevention policy, recently posted a set of initiatives on drug policy. His disclaimer, “Warning: Believing all of the stuff below will make people on both sides of the drug-war debate look at you funny”, suggests that he’s generally thinking outside the conventional framework, and more interested in finding solutions that in pushing a hard-line policy agenda. Most of his ideas make a fair bit of sense. And then there’s this one:

11. Make getting drunk (as opposed to drinking) the object of a big negative-advertising campaign. Goal: make being drunk, or having been drunk, something people—especially young people—try to hide, rather than something they brag about.

Is Kleiman unaware of the existing shame campaign that acts exactly opposite to the one he suggests? Consider:

  • You’re drinking at a party, and realize you’ve had enough, yet you still have a drink in your hand. Is it more shameful to a) leave the drink unfinished, or b) keep drinking, even though you’ve already had enough?
  • You’re at a bar, and realize you’ve had enough. A friend starts ordering shots. Is it more shameful to a) decline the shot, b) drink the shot, c) drink the shot and then order another round of shots?

My bet is that a significant percentage of 18-35 year-olds would answer (b) to the above questions. Given this, and given that teenagers generally look up to their older peers, what are the chances that an advertising campaign telling teenagers that being drunk is not cool will have any effect whatsoever?

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2 Comments

  1. It’s funny that you have this post on your blog about being moderate in politics and policy… Kleiman’s 11th point there is about being moderate in drinking.

    As we can see from the current state of the media, arguments about moderation are difficult to sell. That playwright Terence did it with his quote “Moderation in all things,” which Mark Twain upgraded to “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

    So, maybe the campaign could be “moderation is cool,” not “drunk is not cool.”

  2. Kleiman’s point isn’t about moderation in drinking so much as using taxpayer dollars to fund a big advertising campaign designed to to encourage moderation in drinking. I’m skeptical of the method, not the message.


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