States Consider Lowering Drinking Age

The Chicago Tribune today reports that more states are considering lowering the drinking age to 18 or 19. Discussions have been taking place in Vermont, New Hampshire, Missouri, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Here's a graphic of where the states stood in 1984 before the feds passed a law requiring the age to be 21.

When I turned 18 (in New York)the drinking age was 18. It seemed ridiculous to me that the states raised it. Here's more. What do you think? Take our poll below.

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What Should the Drinking Age Be?
21 15%
19 8%
18 52%
Each State Should Decide for Itself 23%

Votes: 72
Results | Other Polls
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    Eliminate The Drinking Age (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 03:40:15 PM EST
    Altogether. Rather than grant immature adults the invitation to abuse drink it would be better for all of us for them to be educated at home. It takes the allure away and reduces the false illusion that 18 or 21 all of a sudden makes someone wise enough to get drunk.

    What about problem's? Rehab and education is better than prohibition.

    +1 (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by white n az on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:26:44 PM EST
    why criminalize at all?

    doesn't make sense - European countries don't have a drinking age.


    about time too! (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Klio on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 03:41:50 PM EST
    I don't know why the young people haven't been agitating for this change.

    That's an interesting link to your earlier article; I certainly would have said that binge drinking was a consequence of this chuckleheaded policy.  Here in Oklahoma, we had a recent-ish alcohol poisoning death during a fraternity hazing that shed quite a lot of light one kind of binge drinking.  Unfortunately, school administration only made an even more restrictive policy that's driven the students to drink off-campus.  Other municipalities now are instituting social host laws that hold the householders responsible for their guests' drunkenness.  I don't know know effective those will be.  

    Teach kids to drinks responsibly and be genuinely tough on drunk driving - then let them drink legally at 18.  

    if you are old enough to die (5.00 / 5) (#13)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:30:24 PM EST
    in Iraq you are old enough to drink

    Exactly what we thought (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by litigatormom on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:46:26 PM EST
    back when being 18 meant you could get drafted and sent to Vietnam.

    The drinking age was 18 when I was in college. No binge drinking, and not very much drunkenness at all.  (Of course, we all smoked pot back then too.)

    My daughter is going to be a freshman at my alma mater next fall -- it seems bizarre to me that she won't be able to buy a beer at the local pizza joint, or sip a warm beer from a keg at the Saturday night mixer. Especially since she was "legal" when she was in Germany last summer, at the age of 17.  She said that German kids her age hardly ever get drunk, access to beer and wine is legal at 16, and its not a big deal.


    Don't you worry (4.00 / 1) (#23)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 05:37:15 PM EST
    There will be plenty of booze wherever she goes. My best advice: make sure she drinks from a sealed container or a drink she pulls from a keg herself. No jungle juice!

    Thank you (4.50 / 2) (#24)
    by litigatormom on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 05:51:45 PM EST
    for reminding me how freaked out I am about her going away to college. :0

    Denial is my friend.


    I'm sure she'll be fine (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 06:05:48 PM EST
    I've only had one drink in my life... (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by reynwrap582 on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:34:18 PM EST
    and I was 23 when that happened, celebrating my girlfriend's (now, wife) 21st birthday.  I remember it was a white russian, but it tasted like a strangely flavored listerine.  I don't think I even finished it.  So on a personal level it doesn't really matter to me what the drinking age is.  However, looking at it from another perspective, I know that young people who want to drink, will drink.  They will get access somehow, there's no stopping it with conventional methods.

    However, the under-21ers that do drink, have to do so in manners that are more risky.  They have to drink either alone or in small groups, usually behind closed doors where it is hard or impossible for sober/older/mature/aware people to monitor and intervene if it becomes necessary.

    At my wife's college, anyone under the age of 21 caught drinking can get in huge trouble, ranging from several-hundred dollar fines, judicial board,  etc...  Does this stop them from drinking?  No, they just do it in their dorm room with a locked door, often alone (like getting 'warmed up' before a party) or with one or two friends who are also drinking (and usually also underage).  This has led to a lot of problems, including a girl who downed some pills and then spent the rest of the night drinking alone in her room the week before finals, and ending up dead as a result.

    It's also more common for students to leave campus on weekends to go party at neighboring colleges, which can be more dangerous for a number of reasons.  The college can say "hey, look how many people we've caught drinking, we're doing a good job" but in reality they're making things more dangerous.

    Under-21ers also have to find more subversive ways to acquire alcohol, or drink with people they don't necessarily know well or trust.  I know of a young woman I went to high school with who went out to drink with some older guys, ended up getting passed-out drunk, and was raped by several of them.  Would she have been as inclined to go out drinking with a bunch of people she hardly knew if she could have just gone to a bar or something with her friends?  Probably not.

    The laws as they are don't prevent drinking, they just drive the problem behind closed doors, making it harder for young people to learn safe consumption of alcohol.

    Absolutely lower the drinking age (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jen on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:53:04 PM EST
    We started drinking in high school -- just hung out at the liquor store until we found someone willing to go in and buy for us. Or better yet, we'd pick up a hitchhiker and ask them to buy for us! LOL!! (This was early '70's in remote Sierra Mt. town -- relatively safe to do that, then.)

    At 20 I moved from CA to GA. Drinking age then was 18 in GA, so on my 21st birthday I missed out on all the free drinks.

    Oh, and I lived in a "dry" county, so on Sundays we went to the "other side of the tracks" -- literally -- and bought moonshine to keep the bootleggers in business. I think you could only buy 3-2 beer in the stores on Sunday. I never understood the 3-2 beer thing, but then I never understood a lot of things in GA... Hightailed it back to CA after 9 months there.

    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by spit on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:58:23 PM EST
    in a remote Sierra mountain town, what else is there to do? The delta was the same way. Really, if it was a few beers and smokes, it should have been the least of anybody's worries out there -- sometimes I'm a little surprised any of us made it past adolescence.

    I grew up in Chicago (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by stillife on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 05:05:26 PM EST
    and we used to do the same thing, hang out in front of a liquor store and find somebody to buy for us.  Now the kids all have fake ID's.  I know my son (who is now 22) had one.  I used to wonder about the little pieces of chalk in his room - he used them to doctor the birth year on his driver's license.

    Based on my experience as a parent, I do believe that many (most?) young adults don't develop good judgment till they're around 20, but I'm still in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18.  Of course, I live in NYC so drinking and driving is not an issue.  I might feel different if I lived in the suburbs.  The thing is, though, if kids want to drink, they're going to find a way.  My daughter is a freshman in college and drinking in the dorms is widespread.

    When I was 18, the drinking age was 18.  My husband grew up in England and he says the drinking age was 16.  Don't know if it still is.


    in high school we used to drive across the (none / 0) (#28)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 11:53:35 PM EST
    state line from texas into louisana to party and drink. that was so dangerous looking back. it is a wonder i didn't lose some friends. of course i'll never try another salty dog either.

    The drinking (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by fladem on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 05:19:34 PM EST
    age was raised to 21 nationwide as a result of federal conditions on highway funds.  Vermont considered holding out (it was 18) but finally concluded that they could not forgo the highway money.

    Raising the age to 21 is but one example of the neo-victorians (who exist on both the left and the right) who go almost unchallenged in this country.  

    Lower the age to 18 (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Munibond on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 05:34:59 PM EST
    I sympathize with the members of MADD, but tougher enforcement of DUI laws would, I think, reduce highway deaths as much as artifically raising the drinking age.  Binge drinking at house parties is taking its own toll, if not in large numbers of fatalities then in destructive behavior and development of chemical dependencies.  
    I went to high school in New York state at a time when the drinking age was 18, as was the age at which you were permitted to drive after dark.  I think that was a good combination.  

    That's a good call (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 03:38:55 PM EST
    I'm in favor.

    Good! (none / 0) (#4)
    by spit on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 03:43:09 PM EST
    I say, as I suckle on a beer.

    No, really, 21 seems silly to me. Other countries do a much better job of teaching responsible drinking than we do, IMO. We make it this forbidden thing... everybody drinks before they're legal anyway... and then we wonder why people go nuts with it in their early 20's and sometimes beyond.

    My partner recently read a book on the European wine industry during WWII, and we were both highly amused to find that what was considered the reasonable "ration" of wine for each adult in a time of tightening was something like a liter of wine per day for a "laborer", slightly less for those in "intellectual pursuits".

    We still live here with our puritan heritage. It doesn't serve us well, IMO.

    tangential (none / 0) (#5)
    by Nasarius on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 03:44:40 PM EST
    It would be nice if fewer police resources in college towns were dedicated to stamping out that terrible plague of underage drinking, and more to preventing sexual assaults, robbery, etc etc.

    To be fair... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:20:56 PM EST
    ... it's not like a lot of those things are unrealated to alcohol abuse. But I do think a lower drinking age has some merit.

    Honestly (none / 0) (#14)
    by spit on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:32:23 PM EST
    where I am, alcohol abuse is hard to even bother with, because the theft and violence is largely driven by meth and heroin.

    I agree with you to a point, and I think we need really strong focus on education and rehab where needed, but also agree with the above comment that law enforcement resource allocation has a nasty tendency to miss the point.


    LA (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:08:45 PM EST
    Being from NY, I was floored by the Daiquiri -To-Go drive in joints all over the state. Drinking and driving, the only question was small, medium, large or extra large,  and course flavoring.

    Hahahaa (none / 0) (#16)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:44:07 PM EST
    My recollection, must have been the early to mid 70's, was that drinking and driving was legal in LA.

    Wonder if the tape is a new safety measure.

    Thanks for the link. This sounds like the LA I remember:

    A state law passed three years ago forbids drivers to carry open containers of alcohol, but there's a line buried in the law exempting "any amount of frozen alcoholic beverage" in a cup, as long as a straw isn't stuck through the lid. Mr. Brown doesn't mind taking credit. "We did it for one of our friends" in the daiquiri business, he says.

    Speaking of highway funds and laws (none / 0) (#10)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:25:08 PM EST
    and getting around things...

    I love the Idaho seat belt law.  Yes, they have one, but the penalty is a $10 ticket....

    Whoops, posted before I could finish (none / 0) (#12)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 04:29:57 PM EST
    ...so continuing and making my post on-topic...I suspect that part of the "task force's" missions will be to see if the alcohol tax collected from the under 21 drinkers will equal or surpass the portion of federal highway funds they'll lose from not meeting the federal standards.....

    Don't you loose highway (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jgarza on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 09:46:23 PM EST
    dollars if you lower the drinking age?  If i remember correctly during the Clinton administration, used highway dollars to make LA raise it?

    Tha was how they finally got all (none / 0) (#27)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 10:43:18 PM EST
    states to comply.  Wyoming was one of the last to go but they grandfathered in those of us already drunk.

    as i recall, (none / 0) (#29)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 09, 2008 at 04:55:24 AM EST
    my draft card came with a lowering of the drinking age to 18, and i could vote then as well. it had apparently finally occurred to someone in congress that it was a bit ludicrous to send someone off to vietnam who could neither buy a legal alcoholic beverage or vote in their own country.

    the same logic should hold today. most of our founding fathers fell in to one of two groups:

    1. either complete tea totalers, or
    2. drank like fish.

    george washington had his own distillery.

    prohibition is responsible for more crime and deaths than practically any other law ever legislated; you can't legislate morals.

    The problem (none / 0) (#30)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Mar 09, 2008 at 09:16:24 AM EST
    is that too many 18 year olds know too many younger teenagers and can't resist the pressure from these friends to buy them booze. A 21 year old faces a lot  less pressure because they know fewer young kids.

    As for the military bit, just allow anyone with a military ID to buy booze.

    Since very few college students know military people that shouldn't cause a problem.