Picture this: all of a sudden, at precisely 12:00 PM on February 29th, a magical condition immediately takes effect on all humans in this earth-like society. After this time strikes, any person under the age of 21 but over the age of 10 which has knowingly consumed alcohol for purposes other than religious ceremonies will now be affected by a condition where the skin on their hands will glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. This condition is not permanent, but lasts for a decent amount of time (measurable by a formula.)

A few notes about the condition:

  • It is determined by magical means, therefore there are no loopholes. Assume that an omniscient being is enforcing the affliction.
  • The glowing is only the skin on your hands, and only under ultraviolet light within a certain frequency (think blacklight.)
  • Your hands will fade over time, but the glowing effect will not completely fade until the time specified by the following formula: (21-F) years + L, where F is the age you were when you first contracted the affliction, and L is the time where you last consumed alcohol under these conditions.
  • Assume that there is no cure for this condition.
  • Alcohol, for the purposes of this question, only includes recreational alcohol in food and beverages.
  • The "religious ceremony" condition only covers ceremonies preexisting before the time in which this condition first affects the population. It is intended to cover things like the Christian ceremony of Communion.

Please explain how the following factors would be affected by this change:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Religious
  • Social

The answer that provides the most detail in those categories will be accepted.

Alternatively, you could explain how a society would evolve from its roots with this condition preexisting, but I believe it is more interesting for it to occur spontaneously. Therefore, answers in this category will not be considered as high priority for acceptance.

EDIT: In response to my question being put on hold as too broad, you can address how all these factors would change if the effect only lasted 24 hours.


closed as too broad by o.m., Burki, Erik, Marv Mills, bilbo_pingouin Sep 9 '15 at 13:03

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't (21-F)+L equal to 21, at least the first time this happens? For example, if F = 15, then you were 15 years old the last time you consumed alcohol, so (21-15)+15 = 21. You would be 36 before the affliction faded. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 9 '15 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think the impact of the actual law would matter beyond the sudden appearance of magic in the world? So you can see if people drank alcohol; big deal. $\endgroup$ – Erik Sep 9 '15 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ I personally think that there would be plenty of potential repercussions, for one, governments might begin using it as a detection method for underage drinking, while another repercussion might be that people feel that their rights are being violated, which could introduce a whole new set of problems. There are plenty of potential impacts. @Frostfyre: let me check my notes really quickly about that formula. $\endgroup$ – Sam Weaver Sep 9 '15 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ Churches will become more crowded than pubs. $\endgroup$ – mouviciel Sep 9 '15 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ You know, the drinking age isn't 21 everywhere. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Sep 10 '15 at 23:02

If this is the first time magic is introduced

A lot of things will happen with regards to the sudden appearance of what appears to be divinely enforced magic. Once people figure out what's causing the glowing effect, anyway.

This will spur a lot of religious debate, potential violence and religious war, research into how it works (depending on how it works, a lot of new discoveries), etc. All of the things you would expect if a divine miracle suddenly happened.

Other than that...

Nothing noteworthy will happen

You can't use this information as proof in a system of justice. Besides, millions of underage people will light up under the scanner, because almost everyone has been allowed to take a sip of beer (or secretly did it after a party) and would thus be "guilty". You can't afford to persecute so many people, especially if there's no damage done and you can't even show when or how the person drank. So justice systems would do nothing with this information.

On an economic level.. maybe you'd see a minor rise in the sale of blacklights? Honestly, with most of the population being affected by this, it would be a cute novelty to see your hands glow for a while and then it would just become normal.

On a religious level... probably most religions would scrap their ban on alcohol after realising it's impossible to enforce and just angering members. I've been in Egypt, which is very strict in regards to most of the population not being allowed to drink alcohol on religious grounds. It cost some of my travelmates I think 2 hours to find a hidden bar where all the locals were drinking out of street view. People want alcohol and the bans are mostly for show; they can't be enforced. Like with the political side, you just can't go and chastise such a large portion of your following. And once they drink once, there's no real way to check whether they are continuing, so nothing you can do there, either.

And finally... social... social drinking is already acceptable. It's already accepted that most underage people will try to get their hands on alcohol and most will succeed. Nothing is going to change. Crazy parents will have another thing to punish their kids with, but that's not going to have a measurable impact.

  • $\begingroup$ "And finally... social... social drinking is already acceptable." - not everywhere. $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Sep 9 '15 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ If you think you can expand on the social-point regarding areas where it's not acceptable, please add it. I know of no such places, so I wouldn't know what to say :) $\endgroup$ – Erik Sep 9 '15 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik Well, Amish communities for one. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 9 '15 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think those would also be opposed to blacklight scanners, so I think it'd make little difference there. $\endgroup$ – Erik Sep 10 '15 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking of the harder line Middle Eastern countries, for example Kuwait, Iran. It is a bit complicated because social drinking does of course happen, and is accepted amongst the groups that do it, but it is behind closed doors, and not accepted in surface society. Glowing hands would have serious repercussions, I would have thought. $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Sep 10 '15 at 13:36

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