College ‘Bladder Busters,’ ‘Power Hour’ Drinking Ban Eyed in Nebraska

By Nancy Ramsey

Jan 28, 2011 11:48am

ABC News OnCampus reporter Andrew Mach blogs: Nebraska lawmakers are aiming to kill the buzz for excessive drinkers across the state.
 
Legislators are considering a bill that would ban so-called power-hour drinking on 21st birthdays.
 
At the same time, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission has proposed a ban on high-risk drinking games and promotions.
 
LB 294 in the Nebraska Legislature, introduced by Sen. Russ Karpisek, would prohibit alcohol sales immediately after midnight to people on their 21st birthday.
 
“I think there’s a lot of irresponsible drinking that goes on in that hour or two hours before last call,” Karpisek said. “The rite of passage is to drink 21 shots in that time, and that’s an awful lot of alcohol.”
 
The other measure being considered would be a ban on games and promotions such as beer pong and “bladder busters” that encourage intoxication in bars.
 
Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, said there were many cases of over-intoxication in conjunction with these types of promotions.
 
“The horrible thing we were seeing was bars using these events to bring people inside,” Rupe told ABCNews.com. 
 
The target of both measures is binge-drinking, which the United Health Foundation defines as five drinks for a male and four for a female in one sitting. According to the nonprofit agency, the Cornhusker state has the sixth-worst drinking record in the country, with 18.5 percent of the state population age 18 and older regularly binge-drinking. The national average is 15.7 percent. State averages, however, vary from less than 10 percent in Utah, Tennessee and West Virginia to more than 20 percent in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
 
Not surprisingly, the proposed measures have some college students in Nebraska calling, Party foul!
 
For Chelsey Stotts, 20, the power-hour ban would mean waiting until after 6 a.m. on her 21st birthday in May, before she’s legally allowed to purchase alcohol from a bar or liquor store.
 
“That would be terrible,” Stotts said. “My goal isn’t to get abundantly plastered on my birthday; I just want the experience of being able to go out and legally drink.”
 
Stotts also said the proposed ban goes a bit too far and doesn’t allow people to take responsibility for themselves.
 
“I don’t think it’s the Legislature’s right to say that a new 21-year-old can’t go to the bars,” she said. “Lawmakers should be promoting responsibility, not curtailing our rights.”
 
Karpisek said he’s experienced a similar response from members of the Legislature, but he would still give the bill a 50-50 chance of passing.
 
Meanwhile, for Jason Gieselman, 22, beer pong at bars, more commonly known as bar pong, creates no more incentive to binge drink than darts or pool.
 
“I assume the people who drew up this rule have never been to one of these bars because at bar pong, the cups are filled with water,” Gieselman said. “In fact, it’s in your best interest to be sober when you play bar pong because if you’re a mess, you’re not going to win any money.”
 
Gieselman said he plays bar pong at various bars in Lincoln a few times every month.
 
“There have been times when there are as many as 30 people in the bar on Tuesday and Wednesday nights,” he said. “Bar pong tournaments are the main reason a lot of students are even going to these bars during the week.”
 
Rupe said if a game is played with water and drinking is not a penalty or reward, it’s not affected. He also said a bar’s liquor license could be suspended or revoked if it violated the new ban. States in the U.S. generally don’t get into the business of banning drinking games but in England, amid growing concern about excessive drinking, outlandish games and all-you-can-drink deals were recently banned in bars and pubs. At the center of the ban were the promotions and contests in which bar and pub patrons are rewarded with alcohol. Of particular target was the so-called “dentist’s chair”: Customers are held down against a chair and alcohol is squirted into their mouths. In an e-mail to ABCNews.com, James Morris, a research consultant for the Alcohol Education and Research Council in London, wrote that the ban, which took effect last year, had yet to produce any substantial results. “I doubt it has made much significant difference,” Morris said, “although, it has stopped a few ‘all you can drink for X’ promotions.”
 
Morris went on to say that many binge drinkers reportedly “pre-load” on cheap alcohol before going to bars anyway.
 
Alternatively, Stotts said a power-hour ban would likely bring about a similar reaction stateside.
 
“Passing the bill probably won’t change the way young people act,” she said. “There are still other nights when you can go out and binge-drink.”
 
“I know they’re going to go out and get drunk, and that’s fine with me,” Karpisek said. “I just want them to be safe.”
 
     

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