Been there done that....I don't think the reasoning supports relowering the drinking age.
Debate on lower drinking age bubbling up
Proponents say current restriction drives teen alcohol use underground
By Alex Johnson
Updated: 12:14 p.m. ET Aug 14, 2007
Over the strong objection of federal safety officials, a quiet movement to lower the legal drinking age to 18 is taking root as advocates argue that teenagers who are allowed to vote and fight for their country should also be able to enjoy a beer or two.
The proposal, which is the subject of a national petition drive by the National Youth Rights Association, has been studied in a handful of states in recent years, including Florida, Wisconsin, Vermont and Missouri, where supporters are pushing a ballot initiative.
Opponents of the idea point to a reported rise in binge drinking as teenagers increasingly turn to hard liquor as proof that minors should not be allowed to drink, but proponents look at the same data and draw the opposite conclusion.
?Raising the drinking age to 21 was passed with the very best of intentions, but it?s had the very worst of outcomes,? said David J. Hanson, an alcohol policy expert at the State University of New York-Potsdam. ?Just like during national Prohibition, the law has pushed and forced underage drinking and youthful drinking underground, where we have no control over it.?
But Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, countered: ?Why would we repeal or weaken laws that save lives? It doesn?t make sense.?
Different laws in different states
As it happens, there is no such thing as a ?federal legal drinking age.? Many states do not expressly prohibit minors from drinking alcohol, although most of those do set certain conditions, such as its use in a religious ceremony or in the presence of a parent or other guardian.
The phrase refers instead to a patchwork of state laws adopted in the mid-1980s under pressure from Congress, which threatened in 1984 to withhold 10 percent of federal highway funds from states that did not prohibit selling alcohol to those under the age of 21. By 1988, all 50 states had complied.
Libertarian groups and some conservative economic foundations, seeing the age limits as having been extorted by Washington, have long championed lowering the drinking age. But in recent years, many academics and non-partisan policy groups have joined their cause for a different reason: The age restriction does not work, they say. Drinking has gone on behind closed doors and underground, where responsible adults cannot keep an eye on it.
?It does not reduce drinking. It has simply put young adults at greater risk,? said John M. McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont, who this year set up a non-profit organization called Choose Responsibility to push for a lower drinking age.
McCardell offers what he calls a simple challenge:
?The law was changed in 1984, and the law had a very specific purpose, and that was to prohibit drinking among those under the age of 21,? he said. ?The only way to measure the success of that law is to ask ourselves whether, 23 years later, those under 21 are not drinking.?
So are they?
The federal government?s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2005, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, 85 percent of 20-year-old Americans reported that they had used alcohol. Two out of five said they had binged ? that is, consumed five or more drinks at one time ? within the previous month.