Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is spearheading a movement to normalize alcohol laws. The dictionary defines normalizing as any process that makes something more normal, which typically means conforming to some regularity or rule, or returning from some state of abnormality. So what he's really saying is that Utah is an abnormal state.

We are told that we should align with the rest of the country, our laws are archaic, and tourists are complaining — gasp. So let's equalize Utah with the rest of the nation. Utah has the lowest percentage of traffic deaths caused by alcohol, at 22 percent. We can do better. Perhaps we can bring our percentage up to match Texas at 45 percent.

But let's not stop there. We need to "normalize" the use of alcohol among youths. The state with the highest rate of use of alcohol among youths ages 12 to 17 was North Dakota (24.7 percent). Unfortunately, the state with the lowest rate was Utah (10.3 percent).

While we're at it, we'd better get with the times on alcohol consumption among youths. We need to get with the national averages:

• Approximately 88 percent of 10th-graders and 75 percent of eighth-graders report that it's very easy to get alcohol.

• Junior/middle and senior high school students drink 35 percent of all wine coolers sold in the United States; they also consume 1.1 billion cans of beer.

• Approximately two-thirds of teenagers who drink report that they can buy their own alcoholic beverages.

• About 10.4 million Americans between ages 12-20 had at least one drink last month.

Sadly, Utah falls behind these national statistics. We simply must alter our alcohol laws to increase the availability of this drug for our youths, create more alcoholics and increase the opportunity for alcohol-related deaths and injuries so that Utah can be "more normal."

The consequences of underage drinking are a tremendous expense to the U.S. economy and total more than $53 billion per year.

The war is being waged and the battle cry is that we are missing out on tax revenues from tourism. Yet, in 2004 the total economic impact of tourism was nearly $5 billion direct; $10 billion direct and indirect. In 2007, traveler spending rose an estimated 2.3 percent to $6.04 billion in the Utah economy. Traveler spending is estimated to have generated $617 million in state and local tax revenues (approximately $708 per Utah housing unit, an increase of 28.75 percent compared to 2006). International visitors accounted for 3.74 percent of total nonresident visitation with an estimated 690,000 visits.

Don't let state leaders fool you. It's not about tourism, it's not about antiquated laws, it's about money and elections. Somehow, the ideology is being spread that we must march to the tune of 49 other drummers whose cadence is totally whacked. The other drummers need to get in step with Utah.


Jeff Novak, a Bountiful resident, is chairman of Citizens for Ethics and Accountability in Government