Toilet paper, Laundry detergent and a 6-pack of beer
People want to get drunk faster. They do not want to drive to the LCBO or The Beer Store. They want to pick up toilet paper, laundry detergent and a six pack of Molson Canadian in one place. The LCBO and The Beer Store control the booze market. Companies like Loblaws have claimed their stake in the distribution of alcohol. Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has helped. Wynne passed a law that offered large grocery stores the opportunity to sell beer. They sell single beer bottles and 6 packs. The government wants big players who have the territory to distribute. They made the licenses available to grocery stores bigger than 10,000 square feet. So far, 60 stores have been approved. Wynne plans to grant up to 450 licenses throughout the upcoming years. She plans to make $100 million a year doing so.
I asked UTM students what they thought about this and these are their responses.
Arsalan says. “It’s okay. As long as they regulate it”. He has never drunk alcohol and says “My family environment promotes abstinence from it.”
Zarfishan disagrees. She says “Selling beer in grocery stores makes it more accessible to minors and will create problems.” Zarfishan has tried alcohol on occasion but prefers to avoid it.
Arsalan counters. “Minors can access alcohol at the LCBO and Beer store so selling in grocery stores would not change anything.”
Convenience stores feel slighted. Wynne shows them no sympathy. Her consultant, Ms. McGibbon, explains that “Convenience stores have garnered a bad reputation for selling tobacco to minors. “
The law will grant 10 LCBO stores the right to sell 12 packs. Also, the law orders The Beer Store to give small breweries 20% of shelf space. Molson, Labatt and Sleeman own The Beer Store. They sell 80% of beer in Ontario.
You have to be 19 years old if you want to drink tequila shots at The Blind Duck after exams. However, minors can get booze despite this law. I asked students at UTM how they felt about the drinking age.
Sam Henri-Dazé, a 2nd year student, thinks that 19 is an acceptable age. When asked how he felt about lowering the requirement, he said. “It depends on the parents. If the parents are responsible then they can educate their children about drinking in moderation. However, there are parents who are irresponsible and lowering the drinking age might cause problems.” Sam is 20 years old. He had his first drink at 15. The most he has ever drank is 3 beers and a shot of liquor. Sam’s parents allow him to drink but advise him to do it responsibly. He rarely drinks. If he does, it’s likely on Christmas with family. Sam works as a swimming instructor and pursues a double major in French and English.
I asked Darshni, a 1st year student, what she thinks about lowering the drinking age. “Minors can access alcohol from the LCBO and The Beer Store already, so I do not think it would make a difference.” Darshni is 19 years old. She tried alcohol when she was 16 but does not booze often. However, if she does have a drink with friends, she likes Jack Daniels whiskey. Darshni pursues a degree in Psychology and participates in a music group at a Hindu temple.
When I was underage, I “borrowed” the license of my 19 year old brother. My friends and I also relied on “The Beer Guy”. He was in in his mid-forty’s and delivered beer for $20. We called him, placed our orders and he delivered to us. We also asked our neighbours to buy booze and they helped.
Fake I.D’s also worked. My friend Jordan told me about a place in Toronto that made “fakes”. The production of “novelty” I.D’s is legal in Canada. However, if you use a fake to a buy booze, you can get charged criminally. So Jordan and I went to get I.D’s. We stood on the corner of Young and Dundas and looked for the place. I noticed a sign that read “Print Shop”. We waited 5 minutes when a man approached us, handed me a business card then walked away. The card belonged to the print shop which listed printing services for novelty/business cards. I knew this guy would help us with the fakes. The business was located in an apartment above a restaurant. We met the guy and explained our situation. He described the service and gave us a choice between Canadian or American identification. The fee was $50.00. We chose an Ohio State I.D and paired it with an Ohio University student card. He used a printer that embossed an Ohio State holographic stamp on the I.D. I used these cards to buy alcohol from the LCBO and The Beer Store. One time, the manager of the Beer Store refused to sell to me. She knew my I.D was fake. I argued with her. She offered to call the cops so they could help “clarify the situation”. I encouraged her to do so. I waited 15 seconds, reflected on the situation and then got the fuck out of there.
In Canada, people like to booze, especially young people. In 2011, the Canadian government measured how many 15–24 year olds drink. The study found that 71% had drank alcohol within the past year. Eighty-three percent of Gr. 12 Ontario students admit they booze. Forty-nine percent of Ontario Gr. 12 students say they binge drink. Among grade 11’s in Ontario, 13 was the average age of their first drink and 14 was the average age for first time getting drunk.
Canadian law makes drinking alcohol as a minor difficult. If you want to drink, you must hide it from police. This can cause problems because young people lack experience and abuse their limits. Minors will drink booze whether it’s legal or not. If we create an environment that encourages responsible drinking, we will reduce deaths caused by alcohol poisoning.
Jeremy Bennett was 17 years old. He went to a party and tried alcohol for his second time. He drank too much. The parents who hosted the party dropped him home but his parents were out. He died that night from an overdose. Jeremy had a 50% chance of survival but no one called 911. Jeremy’s story tells us that we must rethink our strategy for alcohol regulation.
Ontario has a strong drinking culture. Weekends are synonymous with going to bars, night clubs, house parties or hanging out at a buddies place. Why do people drink alcohol? We drink alcohol to de-stress. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. This desensitizes us and leaves us feeling uninhibited. These feelings can help us to relax in social situations. However, the more alcohol we drink, the more our body builds immunity to it. The more often we booze, the more alcohol we need to feel affected. Most people can control their consumption. However, some cannot.
Peer pressure influences our drinking habits. The group of friends I hung around with throughout high school and university were great people. We shared interests like sports, pop culture, attended the same school and lived in the same neighbourhood. We also loved to drink. Hanging out became an excuse to have a few beers during the week days while we watched hockey or Monday Night Football. Weekends revolved around bars, night clubs and house parties.
I asked Ana Maria Jimenez about her experience with alcohol. She had her first drink at 15. Her friends drank and Ana joined them once a month. When asked about the role that peer pressure plays on young people, she said. “Our social group influences our drinking habits. Drinking is a way to pass the time. Young people need to find activities that are healthy and fun like riding your bike with friends or spending time outdoors in nature.” Ana is 22. She has been “straight edge” for more than 2 years. This means she avoids all drugs because she feels “The best drug is eating healthy, being active and spending time with friends.” Ana is a young professional/YouTube blogger known as AnaVegana.
She’s right. When I hung with my friends, we encouraged each other to drink. We played games like “flip cup”, “beer pong” and “Kings”. We prided ourselves on how much we could drink. If someone refused to booze, we shamed them. The culture we created allowed us to feel comfortable abusing our limits. I watched friends drink more than 12 beers on a Friday or Saturday night. I tried to drink as much as them but this caused disaster. I drank till I could no longer control myself. I spent a night in hospital after I chugged 10 shots of Silent Sam vodka in a matter of seconds. I found myself in life threatening situations. I was beaten unconscious during a brawl at a house party because I was too drunk to defend myself.
I grew bored of the bar hopping, night clubbing and party crashing. The drunken fights were stupid, dangerous and occurred too often. I witnessed violence that would have been avoided if the people did not abuse alcohol. I found aspects of the night life superficial. We dressed in fancy clothes to pretend we led interesting lives. Most of us lived with our parents, worked part time jobs and made minimum wage. The “You Only Live Once” attitude is a great motto but the way I practiced it was getting “black out” drunk. I told people “I’d rather die young and happy than old and miserable”. I realize this mentality is flawed. There are plenty of old people who are happy, healthy and lead meaningful lives.
At the age of 21, I decided to sober up. My choice affected my social life. I no longer received invites to bars, night clubs and parties. I did not feel insulted. I realized our interests were different. A sober guy who sleeps at 10pm every night is not the best person to have around if you like to drink, party and enjoy the night life. I use the extra energy to pursue my dreams. My attendance at school is perfect. My grades have improved. My health has improved. I cycle to school and exercise every day. I went vegan. The relationships I have built are stronger. I surround myself with successful people because our social group motivates us to achieve our goals.
Originally published at medium.com on November 28, 2015.