There are few problems that involve more confusion than how to deal with alcohol abuse. The costs are staggering: over $220 billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone. But tackling the problem of misuse of a legal and popular substance are daunting. Heroin, meth, ecstasy and cocaine issues are clear-cut: illegal, bad, banned.

But the line between legal and appropriate use of alcohol and the abuse and unlawful consumption is much fuzzier. Exacerbating the problem are a blizzard of differing laws, policies, standards, and regulations that vary from state to state, agency to agency and country to country.

Some examples:

  • The legal limit of blood alcohol content while operating a vehicle or heavy machinery varies widely from country to country. Some 25 countries have zero tolerance, but others range all the way to 0.08% (like the United States). A 0.1% limit is imposed in the Cayman Islands
  • States here in America reflect a huge range of policies within the 0.08% limit. Much lower levels can contribute to civil liability or criminal offence. Tolerance for drivers under 21 ranges from zero to 0.05%. Drivers of commercial vehicles and common carriers face even stricter limits.
  • Some countries use Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) instead of blood measurements. These limits also vary between countries.
  • Governments levy alcohol taxes to compensate for some of the cost to society, but it is unlikely that taxation will reach the prohibitive levels that helped reduce tobacco usage. And excessive taxes would unfairly penalize moderate users.
  • Legal restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol can be as touchy as those addressing firearms ownership. The halls of government still echo with the memories of a 20% increase in crime during Prohibition.
  • Some education institutions have tried to address the issue in different ways. Dartmouth plans to ban hard alcohol on campus. School and student leaders at the University of Virginia have crafted agreements to ban binge drinking and curb excessive partying that can lead to sexual assaults, But most campuses are divided or stymied on the issue of what courses of action are likely to be effective.
  • National sororities have long banned alcohol in their houses. But some students are questioning the policy, arguing that drinking in their own environments is safer than risking sexual assault in fraternities or at off-campus sites.
  • Alcohol abuse on many Native American reservations is at epidemic levels, as are alcohol related deaths. One tribe has gone so far as to sue local liquor stores and national breweries for promoting consumption among tribal members.

The road to cohesive and sensible policies to promote reasonable drinking and prevent abuse appears to be a long one and a hard one. This is one reason we have chosen EtG Alcohol Tests with the flexibility to meet a variety of demands. And we stand ready to provide new and updated products as those demands change and evolve.