With some of the nation's most prominent college leaders suggesting that the nation's drinking age be lowered, a group of researchers and safety experts told Maryland lawmakers yesterday that younger drinkers would bring more accidents and deaths.Naturally, the article barely mentions the "opposing view" (which I've written about here).
Virtually all the researchers at yesterday's hearing criticized the college presidents' proposal, with several quoting a national study estimating that 900 lives are saved every year because of drinking-age laws.
Many emphasized the need for comprehensive, long-term programs to change society's view of drinking, especially on college campuses.Rather than lowering the drinking age, Maryland should adopt more stringent laws.
Underage drinking has gained attention in recent months after leaders of more than 100 universities proposed reopening the debate on the drinking age, saying that allowing people as young as 18 to drink legally might promote moderation.
The coalition -- which is called the Amethyst Initiative and includes the presidents of the University of Maryland, Towson University and Johns Hopkins University -- quickly drew sharp criticism from health experts, transportation officials and opponents of drunken driving.
"Recent months"? This initiative was started almost three years ago, and the article doesn't even mention the data offered up by Amethyst on its website. For example:
A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed.
Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.
Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.
By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.
Not to mention, the CDC notes that underage drinking is "a major public health problem," and discusses binge drinking, alcohol dependence, emergency room admissions for alcohol poisonings, and poisoning deaths, all of which have skyrocketed since prohibition was enacted on the 18-21 set in 1984. As I wrote three years ago, "any discussion of lives saved by having raised the drinking age should be viewed in terms of the number of lives lost related to reckless consumption."
Calling for an outright lowering of the drinking age is controversial, and in this season of drinking that is upon us (Fat Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day, etc.), probably not the right time for advocates to broach the topic. I'm rather sure Big Media will be full of stories the next few weeks on DUI crackdowns, public intoxication arrests, the evils of John Barleycorn, ad nauseum.
But the costs of young adult prohibition (including the general disrespect for the law these kinds of sumptuary laws breed) should never be an un-approachable topic. Laws that don't work or are causing more harm than good should always be subject to re-examination.