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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

College drinking debate: 18 or 21?

School leaders urge new look at age laws

By Justin Pope

Associated Press

August 19, 2008

College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, ex-president of Middlebury College in Vermont, who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

Other schools on board include Syracuse University, Morehouse College and Lake Forest College.

But before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and, in the words of MADD CEO Chuck Hurley, "waving the white flag."

Both sides agree alcohol abuse by college students is a huge problem. Research has found that more than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence. One study estimated more than 500,000 full-time students at four-year colleges suffer injuries each year related in some way to drinking, and about 1,700 die in such accidents.

Moana Jagasia, a Duke University sophomore from Singapore, where the drinking age is 18, said reducing the age in the U.S. has merit.

"If the age is younger, you're getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don't freak out when you get to campus," she said.


Anonymous August 20, 2008 at 10:29 PM  

About the drinking age being lowered. I think it would be a good idea. How can 18 year olds vote or go to war but not have a drink. The problem lies with driving and drinking. I believe that is what MADD is all about. Why are we not addressing that issue. It is simple and has been delt with in other parts of the world. If you drink and drive you loose your license for 5 years. I believe this will make young people stop and think about getting behind the wheel. No exception. If they can't get to their job or whatever, then they should have thought of that before. This should not only apply to young people but anyone regardless of age.
Drinking at a young age will never stop it has been done for ever. It is not the drinking but the driving that should be taken away. We are encouraging drinking by telling them they can't do it. Adds to the thrill of getting away with it. Take the law away and its not quite so much fun. Take their car away and that might be a lot more effective.