I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. If I did, however, want to take up the cancer-causing habit, as is my individual right in this country, I could walk to a nearby 7/11 — at 3 in the morning, if I so chose — and purchase a pack of Marlboros. If and when the day comes when I need to have my wisdom teeth removed, I will likely fill a prescription for Valium, Vicodin or some other highly-addicting painkiller at a pharmacy that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco is the underlying cause of death for about 480,000 Americans every year. Abuse of prescription painkillers is responsible for roughly 17,000 additional Americans. Combined, this is nearly 20 times the estimated number of yearly deaths in the U.S. caused by alcohol. And yet, inexplicably, alcohol has indescribably more archaic restrictions and regulations.
Well, not totally without reason. Southern states such as Texas were some of the strongest advocates for the disastrous Prohibition movement in the 1920s, which naively banned the sale of alcohol. When the country rightly disposed of this asinine experiment, Texas and other states retained blue laws that kept tough restrictions on the sale of alcohol, still — without justification — finding it to be some type of horrendous vice worse than the others such as smoking.
Accordingly, still to this day, liquor may not be purchased after 9 p.m. on weekdays or at all on Sunday. Fortunately, a pair of bills in the Legislature have been introduced by power players to do away with these silly outdated customs, but they do not go far enough.
House Bill 1634 by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, one of Speaker Joe Straus' top lieutenants, would allow liquor stores to open an hour earlier on Saturday, whereas Senate Bill 604 by state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, would keep the stores open a little later each night. Both are good steps in the right direction, but they do not go after the core of the problem. Merchants of all stripes, be it convenience stores, grocery stores or something in between, should be able to sell alcohol all hours of the night and all days of the week.
To deny this right would be to ludicrously pretend that alcohol is in a more deleterious position to society than cigarettes and other tobacco products, which is certifiably false. While the negative effects of alcohol in society are well known, they are miniscule compared to tobacco. And some people's — the vast minority of drinkers — poor decisions are not grounds for punishing all of society with inconvenient regulations.
Horwitz is the senior associate editor.