A huge debate erupted this past week over the legal drinking age in the United States. The debate was sparked by John McCardell (former Middlebury College President) and his Choose Responsibility organization’s call to discuss this issue. More than 100 college presidents are now on board with the initiative, which asks the public to consider a lowering of the legal drinking age.
McCardell and his supporters argue that the current drinking age of 21 encourages young college students (who are going to drink anyway) to hide their drinking; putting them more at risk than if the drinking age was lowered. Supporters of the initiative agree that college officials and parents have a hard time teaching 18-20 year olds about safe drinking when legally this age group isn’t supposed to be drinking. By bringing the issue out into the open and making drinking legal at 18, these supporters believe that they can more effectively educate this age group about making responsible choices about alcohol.
Supporters of lowering the drinking age also argue that 18-20 year olds are allowed to vote and serve in the military, and forbidding them to consume alcohol seems hypocritical and degrading.
Choose Responsibility plans to continue to push for this discussion throughout the country, and they have come up with a plan on how this will all work. The “Amethyst Initiative” is the group’s alcohol education program, which allows for drinking licenses to be issued to 18-20 year olds who successfully complete the program, similar to drivers’ education. Teens who drink before they turn 18 would lose their right to apply for the alcohol license.
Not everyone is convinced. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has lead the way for the critics, claiming that these college officials on the list of supporters are taking the easy way out instead of enforcing laws on their campuses. MADD has called for these college presidents to remove their names from the list and partner with law enforcement to come up with real solutions.
Also taking a stand against the initiative is the National Transportation Safety Board, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, who say that lowering the drinking age would “jeopardize the lives of more teens”. These organizations maintain that increasing the drinking age to 21 in the 70’s and 80’s has nationally saved 1000 lives a year.
Critics of lowering the drinking age say that the way to handle alcohol abuse in 18-20 year olds is to enforce the 21 drinking age and have stricter consequences for adults and establishments providing alcohol to individuals under 21. Another key issue according to these opponents is that colleges need to seriously consider the environment found on their campuses and work to do away with the “college is for drinking” attitude found all too often.
The timing is significant for this whole debate. A 1984 federal law restricts a state’s access to federal highway funds if it sets a drinking age lower than 21, which quickly lead to all states raising their drinking ages to 21. This law is up for reauthorization next year, and there will be much more discussion until that time.
This article was written by Jared More
As the Director of Interactive Marketing for American Addiction Centers I am a forward thinking and big picture focused Online Marketing Specialist. Online marketing must be an organizational objective and cannot be compartmentalized into a specific field of pursuit. My objective is to build integrated teams of advertising, technical and marketing professionals that can inspire and influence entire organizations. Successful online marketing requires a group of talented professionals that truly enjoy and are very good at what they do, working together toward common goals. Often companies have disconnected teams of paid advertisers, technical folks, content development and organic marketers. A team that works together on paid, organic, social and traditional channels that also has the technical ability to make changes on the fly is a team that will quickly generate more exposure and revenue for their company. This cohesive approach allows for exponential growth in the rapidly changing digital space. I currently have the pleasure of working exclusively for American Addiction Centers, a rapidly growing leader in the addiction treatment space. American Addiction Centers has a fast paced, challenging and innovative marketing team that is an exciting place to be a part of.