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PILLARS stops giving out BAC cards

Gene Noone | Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blood alcohol content (BAC) cards – which use green, blue and red zones to show the effect of certain numbers of drinks for particular body weights and genders – will no longer be distributed by PILLARS.

Office of Alcohol and Drug Education (OADE) director Kelly Lawrence said the cards were misinterpreted as licenses to drink.

“Every freshman is underage, and giving them a card that says you can have a certain number of drinks and still be safe seems to condone drinking,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence is an advisor to Peers Inspiring Listening, Learning and Responsible Socializing (PILLARS), a student organization that works to limit abusive drinking. The group decided this year not to promote their “Green Zone” campaign to incoming freshmen.

The BAC cards, which were issued to freshmen in previous years, included a gender- and weight-specific chart that estimated a person’s BAC based on the number of drinks consumed and the number of hours spent drinking.

To stay in the “green zone,” the lowest zone, one’s BAC had to be between .02-.059. The cards said people who have a BAC in this zone may experience loss of shyness and minor impairment in reasoning and memory. If a person’s BAC rises from .06-.24, they enter the “blue zone,” a warning zone that includes side effects ranging from impairment of vision and speech to very poor decision-making skills.

The “danger zone” for drinking, also known as the “red zone,” was any BAC .25 and above. In this zone, the cards said, people experience symptomssuch as stability problems and loss of consciousness. If a person appeared to be in the “red zone,” the card said, they should receive medical attention.

The cards were intended as a guide and not a guarantee. But some students with health concerns, like diabetes and epilepsy, and underage students who received tickets from police, complained they were “in the ‘green zone'” and thought they were being responsible, said senior Elizabeth Miller, a member of PILLARS.

“This year we are promoting responsible drinking – if one chooses to drink – which is two drinks in three hours for females, or three drinks in three hours for males,” Miller said.

PILLARS’ approach this year will stress the alcohol policies listed under Indiana state law as well as University alcohol policies, Lawrence said.

“PILLARS would like to be more of a presence on campus, in the dorms and look at the wellness of individuals making sure they are drinking in a healthy, responsible way,” Lawrence said.

Some students said they appreciated the BAC cards and found them helpful, like sophomore Matthew Johnson. Johnson still has the BAC card he was given during a PILLARS program last year.

“I think the cards are useful in giving students a guide for drinking responsibly,” he said. “But I can see how some people could misinterpret the information and get themselves in trouble.”

Although the BAC cards will no longer be issued by PILLARS, those who would like to use them as a guide can pick them up at the OADE office, where Lawrence said counselors will help them interpret and understand the cards better.