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Maybe they were drunk when they did this study

Okay, this is where I draw the line.

Yes, yes, I know that it is I and my liberal comrades in arms who are always being yelled at for "social engineering."

People are always saying things like, "You just want to raise cigarette taxes to make them more expensive so people will stop getting cancer and making the area right outside the entrance to any public building smell like a high school boys room."

And it is true, we have found a variety of ways to tweak the mathematical and sociological underpinnings of what we call culture so that a statistical butterfly breaking wind in Tibet can have some effect on grain futures in Canada.

But now the government is going into the business big time and dealing with two commodities that I feel are already more than endangered by social engineering _ cheap beer and irresponsible sex.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who still aren't doing all that great in the areas of AIDS, flesh-eating bacteria and the common cold, have, on the other hand, found the time to come up with a study that purports to show that raising the tax on a six-pack of beer by 20 percent could reduce gonorrhea by up to 9 percent.

The rationale is that young people, who they feel are apparently more likely to drink cheap beer, will drink more beer at lower prices and then become more apt to indulge in risky sexual behavior.

So by pricing the kids out of the beer market, and we all know they would never find any other ways to get high, we can make them all into productive, condom-wearing, non-belching members of society.

I think that might be taking the theory of the interconnectedness of everything just the tiniest bit too far.

From what I've seen, risky sexual behavior isn't age specific. I know plenty of people in my age bracket who are sort of on the downside of the precaution slope themselves. (I am exempt from this judgment because it's been so long I can't remember.)

And, although beer remains a biggie, I'm not sure that there is that strong a correlation between beverage selection and a conviction that one enjoys some fated protection from the microbes, viruses and other things out there that should be enough to stop all of us from going bump in the night.

Does that mean that those of us who can afford better beer are by definition smarter people? Not from what I've seen in the bar downstairs from my office. (Okay, so sometimes I'm the biggest troublemaker; it just proves my point.)

And, wherever there is a theory, there is always an available extension ad nauseam thereof.

Say the CDC is correct, and that a slight increase in beer taxes will make for fewer cheap beer guzzlers managing to drink each other pretty (you can, I'm told, drink until they seem pretty, but it is very difficult to drink them smart) and decide that pretty means healthy before flinging caution (and, frequently, a sizeable quantity of the aforementioned beverage) to the wind.

Have they forgotten Shakespeare's caution that alcohol promotes lechery, "but takes away in the performance thereof"?

It would be just as easy, and far more democratic, to lower beer taxes so that the folks in the same target demographic would either pass out or get distracted by something shiny in the motel parking lot and not have any kind of sex at all.

I didn't arrive at all of this alone. I did research. (Wait until the Boss sees this expense account).

I asked at least three woman friends if they thought drinking a lot of beer could promote risky sexual behavior.

All three thought I was inquiring on a personal rather than a scientific basis and offered quick input that A) there wasn't that much beer in Pasco County (or west Florida, for that matter) and that B) (after a long look at me) there were some risks even a drunk wouldn't take.

I'll get back to you when I'm finished with the wine cooler research.