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OUR OPINION: Understand the merit in new laws

Our Opinion

Three new ordinances -- laws that will have an effect on social issues -- are on the books. Two of them are new local laws, and the third is a statewide regulation that already was in effect in our city.

First, a new law that took effect Saturday outlaws the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. That's now law of the land throughout the state, although it has been on the books in Grand Forks for more than a year. It also was law in 23 North Dakota cities overall, while 40 other states have passed similar legislation.

We think it's right on the mark. Yes, it has been law in Grand Forks and elsewhere in the state, but something seemed amiss until it became a statewide regulation. It just doesn't seem as big of a deal when the state doesn't follow suit with what numerous cities already know.

We've seen this before, and a good example is laws against texting-while-driving. Many cities first took matters into their own hands and outlawed this dangerous practice, well before some states made the same commitment. When a state cares enough to put it in the books, a law's importance grows substantially.

It was that way with texting, and it will be that way with the new regulation outlawing the sale of e-cigs to minors. Even though Grand Forks has worked to keep the devices out of the hands of minors, the issue took new relevance when the state followed suit.

Two new Grand Forks laws also took effect Saturday.

One is the rule that outlaws extreme drink specials at bars or restaurants. As times change, we suppose this law was inevitable, although we do think this may be a case of government intrusion on private businesses that serve adults who are of legal drinking age.

We like to assume bars and restaurants already were policing this practice by refusing to over-serve patrons.

We also have expressed concern that it could negatively affect certain events in town -- galas, art shows, fundraisers and such -- at which drinks are part of the price of admission. Prior to being passed, though, the law was amended to allow for exceptions of these events, and that alleviated our concerns.

However, it's funny to us that this law seems fine to impose upon young adults in a good college town, but we older adults fretted our own events may be adversely affected.

Meanwhile, binge drinking among young adults is a concern -- a concern shared by the Herald, by faculty at UND and by hospital administrators. If this law can help, we suppose it's worth a try, despite our concerns about government intrusion upon local enterprise.

At least we can still drink unabated at our grown-up fundraisers.

The other new law in Grand Forks is loosely called the "social host" ordinance, and it makes it unlawful for anyone to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provides the alcohol.

We don't believe in this one, since it puts so much fault on the shoulders of a homeowner who may be oblivious that underage drinking has occurred.

The ramifications could be very bad for the well-meaning parents whose teen sneaked a bottle of booze into the basement family room.

In fact, booze showing up at a teen's movie night often isn't the host's fault at all. A guest could sneak in a bottle without the host's knowledge, and we don't believe it's the host's responsibility to perform a pat-down search at the front door.

Certainly, all parents are concerned about teen drinking, but there's only so much those parents can do about it. And even the most well-intentioned, well-behaved college party could be unknowingly crashed by a minor. The host, however, could face legal trouble because of it.

For or against these laws, it's important to understand the root of the problem: protecting the city's teens and young adults.

There is merit to that.