Lowered drinking age not a frothy issue

College presidents are campaigning for 18-year-olds having the right to drink alcohol on and off campus.

At a certain point in the development of most teenagers growing up in America, drinking happens. Citywide activities such as football and cheerleading are replaced by binge drinking, game drinking, social drinking and any other kind of drinking.

It seemed like there was at least one death involving alcohol for every class that graduated from my high school.

The Amethyst Initiative, a program currently supported by 129 chancellors and presidents of colleges and universities ranging from Colorado College to Duke University and everywhere in between, urges elected officials to lower the minimum drinking age back to 18 in order to cut back on binge drinking happening on campuses.

“At colleges and universities, the law does have other effects. It pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks, including risks from drunken driving,” Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, said on the Amethyst Initiative Web site. “It prevents us from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice.”

Alcohol is the forbidden fruit of modern teenagers. On one level, drinking is obviously not a good idea, but to the majority of teenagers, it’s too promising and easy to simply ignore.

Taking away the forbidden appeal of alcohol is sure to make it less flashy, and that will bring down the number of alcohol-related deaths and accidents.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the most vocal proponent of the current drinking age with its “Support 21” campaign to fight against the Amethyst Initiative, which was launched in July 2008. MADD relies on the support from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Congressman James Oberstar, D-Minn., as backers of “Support 21.”

MADD’s Web site asks the public to send letters to the college presidents asking them to remove their names from the initiative list and support 21 as the minimum legal drinking age.

MADD, however, has no new way to solve the problem. The organization lists dubious solutions to college binge drinking on its “Support 21” Web site, such as increasing enforcement of the 21 minimum drinking age law, imposing stricter consequences for underage drinking on college campuses and working with local businesses in college communities selling alcohol to minors.

Alcohol was the helping hand used by the majority of kids I knew in high school.

It was their way to connect. In high school, it seemed like Tuesday to Friday was spent talking about the upcoming weekend’s parties, while Monday was reserved for looking back on the partying that took place that previous weekend. When this goes on from freshman year to graduation, something is wrong. Drinking is considered glamorous due to this kind of mentality.

According to an Associated Press analysis, 157 people between the ages of 18 and 23 died from alcohol poisoning between 1999 and 2005. Of those deceased, 83 were under 21.

Lowering the drinking age to 18 would lower these numbers, mainly due to the fact that if it’s legal, it loses a good chunk of its appeal.

I won’t say that underage drinking isn’t a problem. Raising the drinking age has not accomplished anything significant. New identification cards haven’t curbed underage drinking.

There is no way to know if lowering the drinking age will help. However, we can place a solid bet on it, given that it would take away drinking’s allure as forbidden fruit.

A lower legal age would help curb the teenage drinking populace. When a student leaves home and goes to college, prime binge drinking ages are 18-20. Take away the taboo nature and new college students will be less likely to turn to alcohol when they are trying to break the mold.

Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at stevecic@temple.edu.

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