Alcohol at Scout camp
David D. Miller (DDM@DHDIBM1.BITNET)
Fri, 24 May 1991 19:23:16 CST
At last the topic comes up on Scouts-l. Debate now open!!!
Yes, there was alcohol available at Intercamp this year, but just off
site. There was a Gasthaus beside the site, and this was "commandeered"
for the duration of the camp. It was extended by a couple of marquees,
and called the "Scouters' Tent", with access by special permit only.
Permits were only issued to leaders and to off-duty military personnel
staying on site. On the inside of the camp fence was a similar "Scouts'
Tent" with unrestricted access, but limited opening hours and very
limited menu. There was also a curfew on the site, with the Internal
Security escorting the few late (but happy) leaders back to their sites.
Beer drinking is part of the way of life in Germany (and probably most
other European countries), and Scout meetings seem to be no exception.
In my German Troop, the Patrol Leaders' Council meeting has a crate of
bottles in the corner, paid for by those who drink. Those who don't
drink bring alternative refreshments. It's so natural that there's no
problem with it.
As far as I can remember from my Venture Scout days in the UK, the
policy of the UK Scout Association on drink is to encourage a sense of
responsibility. Hard and fast rules are not provided by Headquarters;
it is left to the Groups and Units to make their own local rules (within
the general laws of Scouting). The setting of these rules for a
Venture Scout Unit is a normal part of the training programme.
The rules tend to have a common format:
1. Under-age drinking is prohibited by law.
2. Drinking is socially acceptable among adults; Getting drunk is NOT.
3. Drinking in Scout Uniform is in order, *provided it doesn't bring
the Movement into disrepute*.
4. No drinking in the company of Cubs or Scouts (under 16 years), or
at a Cub or Scout event.
5. Drinking at Venture or Leader events, with everyone at least 16
years old, is allowed. (But obey rule 1!)
6. Drinking before driving, or before "High Adventure" activities, is
7. A non-alcoholic alternative should always be available, and promoted
as the preferable choice.
I have seen Troops in the UK where the rules (and all common sense) are
ignored. The worst was a nameless 26 year-old Scout Leader who
*encouraged* the PLs and Junior Leaders to drink, while at a permanent
campsite with a strict prohibition. (Some of the PLs were only 14 at
the time, are now at University with a *severe* drinking problem, and
openly admit the problem started at that Scout Camp.) That is an
extreme case, but I think a good proportion of Scout Leaders in the UK
either carry a small personal supply, or retire to a local hostelry
after the youngsters are asleep/away.
The problem is worst with Venture Scout Units (15-19 age group).
Almost every District has stories along the lines: "They had a Venture
Unit, but it turned into a drinking club and had to be shut down." It
has happened again and again. On the other hand, I have attended
more than one formal Venture Scout dinner where the strictly limited
quantity of beer/wine outlasted a supposedly unlimited amount of
fruit juice and soft drinks - an example of the last rule above in
action. So much depends on the quality and attitude of the leaders.
As for the Leaders, it is not uncommon in Britain for campsites to have
a Leaders room with different rules from the rest of the site. Larger
events (such as Intercamp) normally have a "Leaders' Tent", if only to
prevent the Leaders from going off-site. And Leaders going for a quick
pint after a strenuous Troop or Pack meeting is more the rule than the
exception, just as factory workers are expected to stop off on their way
home in the evening.
Yours (soberly) in Scouting,
David D. Miller
Historical note: This letter was written in 1991, when Ethanol
(formerly called Grain Alcohol or drinking-alcohol) was still openly and
legally used as an addictive intoxicating beverage. By the end of the
century, a combination of high "excise duty", a special tax on
drinking-alcohol, and a series of laws on drinking or being intoxicated
with it in public reduced the total consumption worldwide to a small
fraction of its former value. It became socially unacceptable, like
smoking-tobacco before it. Since 2008, when production and trade of
drinking-alcohol was prohibited by all the G4 countries, it has been
available only as a low cost illegal drug. The production of Ethanol
has actually increased fourfold since 1991, but only for use as a
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City