Risky Drinking Coalition works to change state's drinking laws - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Risky Drinking Coalition works to change state's drinking laws


LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—People in the Wisconsin drink 28-percent more than the national average and about 1,500 people die each year due to alcohol abuse, according to Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin Report by Health First Wisconsin.

To help decrease those numbers, the group is working to get the community and legislators behind some new laws.

"I think we all go about out daily lives and those who have grown up in Wisconsin its kind of in the back of your mind Wisconsin might have a drinking problem," Jeremy Arney, Assistant Professor in Public Administrator, UW-La Crosse said.

Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition wants to move that from the back of the communities mind into the forefront.

"It's a public health issue, not a prohibition issue," Brenda Rooney, Medical Director Community and Preventative Care Services, Gundersen Lutheran said. "We're looking at ways to resolve the problem."

One suggestion is add sobriety check points, another, change what they call conflicting age limit laws.

"You must be 21 to enter a tavern but you can tend bar at 18," Ed Kondracki, Chair of Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition said. "Well if you can't enter a bar how in the world can you serve alcohol to people when you're under 21?"

They said it doesn't just affect people who are drinking.

"Every time someone is arrested for a DUI or someone is in a motor vehicle crash and ends up in the hospital someone pays for that and that isn't the person that suffered from that," Rooney said.

Excessive alcohol consumption costs Wisconsin $6.8 billion a year. Taxpayers put up about 40-percent of that with accident clean up, hospital bills and court costs.

Even with this evidence, Arney said getting law makers behind some of these proposals, like raising the alcohol tax, is harder than you may think.

"In terms of beer tax increase," Arney said. "Out of 132 legislators in Wisconsin, there's probably four that would support that increase."

He said that's because they're afraid to hurt their voters.

"We're a very rural area in Wisconsin," Arney said. "So if you're campaigning in a rural area you're likely going to end up at a townie bar and so everyone meets and gets their farmers or everyone in the community meets at the local townie bar and that's just a place to socialize."

But the coalition's goal is to help law makers realize we need a change to help end our risky drinking.

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