Would Alcohol Awareness Class Change Drinking Age?

by: Mike Miller

Alcohol laws vary drastically from country-to-country.  They also vary from state-to-state right here in the United States.

The other day, I was reading through the Office of Safety and Security's crime log when I came across a report that an underage student had used a fake ID, bought alcohol, and provided it to other minors at a small, private university. It reminded me of the strange role that alcohol plays, not only on campus, but also in this country.

Alcohol has a strange relationship at US colleges: On the one hand, all students are told during Orientation, possession of hard alcohol in college dormitories is a violation. However, schools also provide tacit approval of underage consumption through its description of chem-free dorms.

The United States has the highest drinking age in the developed world. And what does it have to show for that? Nothing.

According to the Amethyst Initiative, an organization supported by 135 college presidents, which advocates that current drinking laws be reconsidered, "21 is not working."

Relatively speaking, for example, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving in the United States is higher compared to countries with lower drinking ages. In California, a state with 32 million cars and a road network about 169,000 miles long, there were 1,355 alcohol-related deaths in 2008. In Britain, however, with a population twice as large, a similar number of cars and 248,000 miles of road, only a third as many people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents.

It would seem that the members of Congress who approved the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984 forgot that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, no person should be denied "the equal protection of the laws." That is exactly the case if, for three years of your life, you can be penalized for a crime that does not exist for any other so-called adult.

Congress passed (and President Reagan signed) the law in order to standardize the drinking age.

As the law stands, at age 18 you can vote, buy a gun, smoke, get married, be summoned for jury duty, pay taxes, and even die for your country in battle, yet you are still not allowed to purchase alcohol.

It could be argued that even 18 is an arbitrary age at which to legally become an adult but that is not the issue at hand.

You ask someone what the first word that comes to their mind when you say "cigarette" and their answer will probably be "cancer." Say "alcohol" and you are more likely to hear "party" than "liver failure."

Ultimately, this age limit has not achieved anything it was meant to. Underage drinking continues unabated and underground, leaving too many vulnerable to alcohol's effects. Drunk driving incidences have decreased minimally and the rate of deaths as a result of alcohol on the road is still dizzyingly high.

I welcome your thoughts on the issue.