A different opinion on lowering the drinking age

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In response to our Thursday piece on the public health implications of lowering the legal drinking age, for which ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan came out in favor, a Dispatch reader with some expertise on the subject writes:

I must raise some concerns about ACSH’s support for reducing the drinking age in the U.S. The fact is that the more accessible alcohol is — to almost anyone, but especially to young people — the more likely they are to drink underage and drink excessively. The greater social acceptability of drinking will also increase drinking levels.

Although I like the idea of parents closely monitoring their young people’s behavior and structuring events that expose children to small amounts of alcohol under close supervision, to prepare them to drink, it’s only rarely a good approach. The fact is that few parents are willing to teach their youths that low-risk drinking (no more than two drinks at a sitting) is the best approach to alcohol use; that’s not the norm with most young adults today — and most aspire to the norm.

Furthermore, though many people point to the lower legal age for drinking in European communities and countries as something to aspire to, most European countries have far more problems with excessive drinking among their youth than does the U.S.


The reader ends his letter by pointing others toward information about the prevention and reduction of alcohol abuse, available on the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, and NIH’s Institute of Medicine, all of which thoroughly examine the issue of underage drinking.

Larry A Didier is the Tobacco Prevention/Cessation Coordinator at the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford, IL.