Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why do we ban smoking and look the other way when it comes to alcohol?

This is an excellent letter to the editor which appeared in The Daily Republic published in Mitchell, South Dakota, on March 13, 2009.

To the Editor:

I am a non-smoker. If I go in a business that is smoky, I leave, take my business elsewhere. My question is why smoking?

What about alcohol? Alcohol is society’s oldest and most popular drug.

Drunk driving is the nation’s most frequently committed violent crime.

Half of all teenage fatalities are alcohol-related. Someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes.

In 2007, alcohol-impaired driving accounted for 30 to 34 percent of all driving fatalities in South Dakota. Adolescents are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol on learning and memory.

In 2008, 92.2 percent of 12th-graders reported that alcohol is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to get. The brain does not finish developing until the early 20s. Alcohol affects all parts of the brain, also the heart rate, coordination, speech and destroys brain cells.

Beer is the drink most commonly consumed by people stopped for alcohol-impaired driving or involved in alcohol related crashes. A first-time drunk driving offender on average has driven drunk 87 times prior to being arrested, 50-70 percent of drunk drivers whose licenses are suspended continue to drive.

The risk of a driver who has one or more DWI convictions becoming involved in a fatal crash is about 14 times the risk of a driver with no DWI conviction.

One South Dakota county recently reported alcohol as a factor in about 90 percent of criminal activity. Not to mention fetal alcohol syndrome, the leading cause of mental retardation in the U.S., only one aspect of the effect alcohol has on the family.

The facts go on and on yet we continue to ignore them. Why have we chosen to ban smoking, but look the other way when it comes to drinking? The effects are just as devastating to the innocent.

Marlene Hargreaves


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