Vice Squad
Friday, December 31, 2004
New Year's Eve and Alcohol

New Year's Eve never fails to bring out our ambiguous relationship with alcohol. Imbibing is part of the stereotypical New Year's Eve celebration. Even excessive drinking receives a bit more of a pass on New Year's: newspapers tend to run stories about purported hangover preventions or cures at this time of year (examples here and here.) But the ambiguity is evidenced by the other sorts of alcohol stories in the news, particularly those involving drunk driving; here's an excerpt from one such story, from the LA Times: "New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are the most dangerous days of the year when it comes to alcohol-related collisions, according to a recent study by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Drivers and passengers on those days are 148% more likely to be killed or injured in a drunk driving crash than on other days."

Recently, some communities have been promoting alcohol-free celebrations, thanks largely to the efforts of First Night International. From their website: "First Night seeks to foster the public's appreciation of visual and performing arts through an innovative, diverse and high quality New Year's Eve program which provides a shared cultural experience, accessible and affordable to all." Here's the list of more than 130 municipalities that will host First Night celebrations today.

In general, I think that vice regulations should make it not too costly for someone to live in a "standard" way without being subjected at every turn to vices that he or she might prefer to avoid. In much of the US, it is hard for teetotalers or recovering alcoholics to shield themselves from alcohol in their day-to-day activities, and I can't go to my local deli without facing the importuning of the state of Illinois to sell me lottery tickets. At any rate, events like First Night celebrations are, I think, useful developments, by providing a "regular," but alcohol-free, New Year's celebration.

However you choose to celebrate, have a happy and safe New Year, and may 2005 smile upon you.

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