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Drinking: 18 vs. 21

Alcohol on campus: debating lowering the drinking age

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18or21-beerfoam_h.jpg

Graphic by Daniel Essrow

Part four of a five-part series exploring drinking on campus.

It’s the question that has stuck in the craw of underage college students for decades: I can fight and die for this country, so why can’t I crack a beer?

There are no easy answers. But resentment among 18-to-20-year-olds simmers.

For much of the 20th century, the legal drinking age in the United States had a bumpy ride. After Prohibition ended in 1933, you had to be 21 to sidle up to a bar. During the height of the Vietnam War, 18 was your ticket to a six-pack. But by the late ’70s, the minimum drinking age was all over the map, literally, with various states having tacked on an extra year or two.

BU Today Alcohol on Campus: 18 vs 21. 1932 Anti-Prohibition ParadeWomen turn out in large numbers for the anti-Prohibition parade and demonstration in Newark, N.J., October 28, 1932. More than 20,000 people took part in the mass demand for the repeal of the 18th Amendment. AP Photo

Finally, in 1984, the federal government, backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), ordered all 50 states to raise their legal drinking age to 21 years old or suffer a 10 percent cut in their annual federal highway dollars. By 1987, every governor had complied. According to MADD, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (NMDAA) has saved some 17,000 lives on the highways since 1988.

But some people feel MADD has gone too far. Over the past two decades, several efforts have bubbled up to bring the drinking age back down to 18. The issue caught fire in 2004, when former Middlebury College president John McCardell, alarmed at the intensity of underage drinking, particularly on college campuses, wrote a New York Times op-ed that called the current drinking age “bad social policy and a terrible law.”

“It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority,” wrote McCardell, now a history professor at Middlebury. “Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking.”

In 2007, McCardell founded Choose Responsibility (CR), a nonprofit group devoted to spreading awareness of the dangers of excessive and reckless alcohol consumption by young adults. CR’s main goal is to lower the drinking age to 18, combined with better education about alcohol use. McCardell has been joined by Barrett Seaman, a veteran Time magazine correspondent and editor and the author of Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess (Wiley, 2005). They argue that the current law has driven underage boozing underground and into dangerous territory. According to the Annual Review of Public Health, as referenced on CR’s website, alcohol annually contributes to some 1,700 deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault among college students.

Photo by Lil’ El

Attaching available numbers to real progress is a tricky business. MADD claims the higher drinking age is responsible for a decline in annual alcohol-related deaths, from 26,173 in 1982 to 16,885 in 2005, as counted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with alcohol-related fatalities dropping more than highway deaths where booze was not a factor. Opponents point out that the NHTSA’s definition of “alcohol-related deaths” includes all fatalities involving any measurable amount of alcohol in any person involved, including pedestrians. They also note that highway design, vehicle safety, and seat-belt use have markedly improved since the 1980s. Pro-21ers counter with a 2002 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota who reviewed more than 150 studies since NMDAA was enacted that consistently show benefit to the law, as well as popular support. They also note that the age for handgun purchase is 21 as well, and to rent a car is 25.

In 2008, Choose Responsibility launched the Amethyst Initiative, a movement of university and college presidents calling for a reconsideration of the law. Boston University President Robert A. Brown is not among them.

“The Amethyst Initiative proposes that by lowering the drinking age, colleges will be better able to generate awareness of the risk of excessive alcohol use,” Brown says. “I am not convinced this is true, and I worry about the consequences of lowering the age on the large number of teenagers not in college, as well as the environment for students in high school who would experience increased exposure to alcohol.”

BU Today spoke with Seaman, the current president of Choose Responsibility, and William DeJong, a School of Public Health professor of community health sciences and an expert on alcohol education, who has debated members of Choose Responsibility in the past, to discuss the pros and cons of lowering the legal drinking age in America.

BU Today: What led you to decide that Age 21 was the right or wrong direction for this country?
Seaman:
When I began researching binge drinking on American college campuses—Harvard, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Hamilton, UVA, Duke, Indiana, Wisconsin, Berkeley, Stanford, Pomona—I was struck by the unanimity of the culture on these campuses that seems to revolve around heavy, dangerous, determinative drinking, where people set out to get drunk and the whole notion of pregaming and doing shots in the dorm room. The sort of clandestine behavior I just didn’t remember from my days in college, which were definitely a long time ago. But back in the ’60s, when the drinking age in New York, where I went to school, was 18, we didn’t feel a need to do that stuff because it was legal.

Another part of my eureka moment was when I visited McGill University. As you know, McGill is in Montreal, where the drinking age is 18, but they also have, in any given year, 2,000 Americans enrolled as undergraduates. I wanted to see how the Americans there behaved as compared to their compatriots in American schools. And I was really struck by the relative civility I found up at McGill. It just wasn’t a big deal. They could go down to the bars in Montreal and drink or go to the clubs or they could have a case of beer delivered to their dorm rooms. It was an open culture.

The other piece that really struck me was that at McGill the students and faculty and other adults intermingled around alcohol, whereas in American universities and colleges, there was a total separation of adults from young people. I think the lack of somebody around to demonstrate moderate drinking, to just having a professor or parent or somebody around who could say, “I think three beers is enough. You’re beginning to act like a jerk.” That sort of moderating behavior is totally absent. So here’s a whole generation of young people learning to drink from themselves, instead of from people who’ve had some experience with it. That struck me as a really perverse culture and the wrong way to go about it. So I came away from that convinced that 21 was not solving the problem. It was part of the problem.

DeJong: Raising the drinking age to 21 was a choice that was dictated by the research evidence that was coming out of the experiments in the 1970s and early ’80s, when a lot of states switched from having a drinking age of 21 to a lower age, sometimes as low as 18. Researchers took a look at what was going on in those states compared to similar states that had not made the change, and it was very clear that changing the law was resulting in a higher number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Based on that evidence, MADD began to push for a uniform age 21 law. Researchers then began looking at the impact in those states that had switched to 21 as they came online, and you could immediately see the benefits in reduced traffic fatalities.

BU Today Alcohol on Campus: 18 vs 21. Ronald Reagan signs legislation raising the national drinking age.U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs legislation on July 17, 1984, raising the national drinking age to 21 as MADD founder Candy Lightner looks on. AP photo

What Choose Responsibility is not accounting for is that if you look at the number of highway fatalities by age of the driver, you see a decrease for people between 21 and 30 and there’s a much sharper decrease for those under 21 on a percentage basis. Everything they’re saying about drinking rates, seat-belt use, and better car design has been taken into account. So they’re left without an explanation for why that decrease was sharper for those under the age of 21. The only explanation that most traffic safety people point to is the Age 21 law itself. New Zealand recently switched from age 20 to 18. As soon as they made that change, not only did they have more traffic fatalities among 18- and 19-year-olds, but among 15- and 16-year-olds.

Does the Age 21 law infantilize young adults who can vote, serve on juries, and die for this country in battle?
Seaman:
I sent three daughters through college in the 1990s. I’ve been a trustee at Hamilton College, my alma mater, for 21 years. And through that particular vantage point, going up to campus four times a year, meeting with students, and seeing the enormous growth of the student affairs staffing on college campuses, it struck me as being somewhat infantilizing. The rules and the nanny mentality that existed was not helpful. It was not what I remembered from my experience in college. I became curious about what had changed and decided to take a look at the total culture of college campuses. The drinking is the piece that jumped out. But that’s the one where I said to myself, “There is a policy change that could affect this.”

I think the main problem is the separation of adults from young people precisely at the time of their lives where they’re going to be drinking anyway. It’s bringing to bear enormous amounts of resources—police enforcement, rules on college campuses, all these RAs and staffers who spend an awful lot of time worrying about whether people are drinking, how much they’re drinking, and what they’re doing as a result of drinking. I look to Canada and to the rest of the world and I see that people can drink at a younger age and be civilized about it. One of the things I did when I was researching Binge is I sought out international students, and I would ask them what their impression was. It was remarkably uniform. They’d say, “This is the kind of stuff we did in high school. Gee, these people are silly, they spend so much time thinking about alcohol.” They found it all pretty sophomoric.

Dejong: When the drinking age was lowered, we did not get less infantile behavior; we actually got more. It’s kind of a basic axiom that if you make alcohol more readily accessible, people will drink more and a certain percentage of them will drink to excess in a greater percentage. There’s just all kinds of data showing that. You increase taxes and consumption goes down and the negative consequences from drinking go down. You make alcohol available on Sundays and people buy more, drink more, and the negative consequences go up.

There’s a whole literature showing that whatever policy is in place that makes alcohol more accessible, the more problems you have. One of the things we know is that parents who allow their kids to drink at home actually stimulate the kids to drink more overall than parents who don’t encourage their kids to drink at home. Those kids drink higher amounts and more frequently. They experience more negative alcohol-related consequences. Rather than the kids getting the message that there’s a way to drink responsibly, they take away the message that Mom and Dad don’t care if I drink, so when they’re out in social setting, they’re more inclined to drink more. Again, I don’t see any evidence that we get more extreme drinking because of the Age 21 law. Show me data, not anecdotes. We can find anecdotes for both sides of the argument.

Watch this video on YouTube

Watch student reactions in the video above.

Does Age 21 breed disrespect for authority?
Seaman:
The disrespect to the law is fake IDs, the widespread purchase and consumption of alcohol by people who know it’s illegal, and the supplying of younger people by older or upperclassmen in college who think nothing of going out and buying alcohol and then making sure that everybody in their fraternity or sorority has access to it.

Some of what I saw on these college campuses included fraternities where they had built elaborate systems, wild stuff right out of Prohibition, where the bar suddenly turns around and becomes a library. They had shut-down drills, where at the first sign of campus police or somebody coming to inspect on a Saturday night, they’d blow the whistle and every brother in the place knew exactly what to do and how to clean the place up. In two minutes, they had a raging party turn into what looked like an ice cream parlor. That’s the kind of climate this law seems to have engendered. That’s what you’ve got to break.

Dejong: Disrespect for authority can happen with the enforcement of any law that people are not uniformly behind. There is something to the argument that Age 21 creates disrespect for the law, but I could say the same thing about speed limits. We violate speed limits all the time. It really seems arbitrary and unfair when we’re the ones who get pulled over when everyone else is speeding. So what—do we raise the speed limit, get rid of speed limits because they’re creating disrespect for the law? I don’t think widespread disobedience is a reason for changing a law. I’m convinced by the evidence, even though the Age 21 law has been imperfectly enforced and even though a lot of people violate it, that it has had a dampening effect and has reduced negative alcohol-related problems. To some degree people are keeping themselves in check because of the Age 21 law and don’t want to get caught.

And the fact is, if you look at the polling data over the years for the Age 21 law, there is overwhelming public support for it. There may not be overwhelming support for it among people who are 18 to 20, but U.S. adults, overall, support it. One glimpse I’ve had into this is through the online alcohol education course that is taken by about one third of all freshmen in the country. We ask their opinion of the Age 21 law. A bare majority of students are in favor of the current law or aren’t sure what the law should be. It’s a minority that are absolutely certain that the law should be changed.

The Amethyst Initiative, signed by almost 140 college presidents, seems to suggest that educational leaders see Age 18 as a viable solution.
Seaman: We launched the Amethyst Initiative, which 138 college and university presidents have signed, calling for an objective and dispassionate debate over a better system; 21 is not solving the problem. So let’s talk about some things that might work.

I deal with a lot of student affairs people and deans of students, and I think what the smart ones are doing is focusing on the bad behaviors that result from the misuse of alcohol, rather than the mere consumption of alcohol. Don’t bust kids for walking around campus with an open container of beer, certainly not students who are sitting in their room, watching a football game on television with a six-pack in front of them. They’re not doing anybody any harm. But do crack down on the people who bust up windows in the student center or some other form of vandalism. Do crack down on the people who get involved in date rapes. And certainly there ought to be no tolerance of drinking and driving by people under 21, as there shouldn’t be for people over 21. If they can concentrate on that and not worry about who’s consuming alcohol in a relatively civilized or moderate way, I think they would have more success.

DeJong: A lot of the presidents who signed up were not necessarily in favor of changing the law, but wanted to encourage an open discussion and review of it. Keep in mind that it’s a very small number of presidents. Some of them have signed and gotten hell for it from their own staffs, who have to now try and deal with the issue. Some presidents had to be taught what the research issues were, and then withdrew their support. I also think a lot of the interest among the college presidents came about from a sense of fatalism—that there was nothing that works so we should try this. But there’s a lot that works. There’s 20 years of research pointing the way toward effective prevention. There was an initial wave of pro-18 publicity two years ago, but we really don’t hear much about it anymore. There’s no political will to change the law. The states are up against a federal law that incentivizes the current law. It would cost states an enormous amount of money and provoke vociferous opposition from a variety of groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Mr. Seaman, two final questions for you: won’t lowering the drinking age result in the problems trickling down to a younger, more vulnerable age group?
Seaman:
That is a tough argument. I understand. Because we still have a fair number of 18-year-olds who are in high school and the prospect of them being able to supply the 17-, 16-, 15-year-olds with alcohol is a daunting one. My response is that if you take 18 as a clear, bright line that separates adults from nonadults, which the law does in every other respect, I think you could enforce it more credibly and have more buy-in from the people themselves. But right now we have a law that nobody respects. So why should a 17-year-old feel that he or she shouldn’t have access to a handle of vodka when the 19- or 20-year-olds are illegal and they’re getting it too? It’s the same sort of mentality we had during Prohibition. For all age groups, there was a total disrespect for the law that was engendered by the failure of Prohibition. It just had no popular support. The answer I would give is you have to have an educational component as part of any change in the law.

Do you see any positives to the drinking age being 21?
Seaman:
I think at the beginning it seemed to have—if not the law itself, at least the debate surrounding it—an impact on drunk driving. That impact was a 13 percent decline over a six- or seven-year period. Then it sort of settled out about 1990 and really hasn’t improved since. Age 21 was a broad-brush social policy used to fight the specific problem of drunk driving. And really, underage drinking and drunk driving are two very different things. They overlap, but they’re different. You look at the statistics and the last time I checked, just under 90 percent of drunk driving fatalities in this country were caused by people over 21. So this isn’t an age-specific thing. And we strongly advocate even stronger drunk driving laws than we already have.

BU Today Alcohol on Campus: 18 vs 21. Beer Pong.Photo by Ian Sutherland

Professor DeJong, clearly binge drinking is a problem on college campuses under the current law. What more can be done to educate students?
Dejong: I’m working with a company called Outside the Classroom. They have a course called AlcoholEdu, which is taken by about one third of all college freshmen. It’s a course that certainly reminds people of the Age 21 law, but recognizes that people are going to make their own choices about drinking. It offers a lot of information to those who choose to drink that will help them decide to drink less. We do have evidence from randomized control trials that it’s effective in reducing alcohol consumption compared with students who don’t take the course.

And beyond education?
Dejong:
There’s a whole package of things. Beyond education programs, there has to be a supportive environment. You have to have very clear policies that are firmly, consistently, and strictly enforced. Part of the package has to be parental notification. Part of it is improving enforcement in nearby communities. Off-campus parties are a big problem. So cooperative enforcement between campus and local police can do a lot; holding landlords accountable through zoning restrictions or municipal codes, and holding landlords responsible for their tenants; working with local taverns, bars, liquor stores to reduce sales to intoxicated patrons.

“Social norms marketing” is another important component. One of the main drivers of this heavy drinking is the common misperception that everybody drinks heavily. Students have grossly exaggerated views of how much drinking is going on. Through a campus media campaign, you can inform students of how much drinking is really taking place and correct that misperception. There’s evidence that that reduces how much students drink.

Next up: “Rules, Realities, and the Holy Grail.”

Getting Help: Information about alcohol abuse treatment and support at Student Health Services can be found here. Learn more about alcohol and your health here. Resources and information about reporting sexual assault can be found here.

AlcoholScreening.org, a tool for confidentially assessing drinking and finding help, was developed by researchers at the BU School of Public Health.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu. Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

50 Comments

50 Comments on Drinking: 18 vs. 21

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 7:20 am

    Why 18 vs. 21?

    I think President Brown’s concern for introducing drinking into high schools is an important one. My question, though, is why 21 (versus 20 or 22) in the first place? And why is all the discussion about lowering the drinking age focused on 18 rather than 19 (when most people are out of high school) or 20 (a less drastic reduction and opportunity to test the implications of change)?

    • courtney on 11.28.2012 at 7:09 pm

      i agree because i find that the age of 21 drinking age has done a whole lot of good and yet should be upped to age 25 but that is just my oppinion.I also agree on choice of reducing the age to 19 because most 18 yearolds these days…they,honestly don’t care.i know. I have a cousion( not going to mention her name)but ever since she turned 18 she has purchesed a fake id and has been intoxicated with the useage of alcohol i personaly wish her good luck with the life that she has chosen.

      • 18 on 05.02.2014 at 3:12 pm

        25? have u been drinking?haha

      • spelling police on 10.22.2014 at 11:20 am

        have you been drinking on this post courtney? wow your spelling is abysmal, and makes me think you’ve had a few before posting!

        also, 25? that’s ridiculious!

  • John J Deltuvia Jr on 10.21.2010 at 7:28 am

    Considering that research shows human brain maturity at 24

    We need the U.S. Constitution to catch up with modern scientific research, such as:

    1. The age of majority in the United States shall be 24.

    2. No Person, not having attained the age of majority, shall be permitted to engage in acts associated with said age, including but not limited to enrollment or commission in the armed forces or militia, engaging in contract, or consumption of alcohol.

    3. The Military Service Academies and the Reserve Officers’ Training Program shall become graduate programs, with commissions granted after the attainment of a doctoral degree. The Federal Government and the governments of the several states may establish a pre-military undergraduate program, but no person, having enrolled in such a program, shall be held to any final decision of commission; PROVIDED, however, that the Government supporting such a person who withdraws from the program shall be entitled to recoup reasonable schooling costs from such a person.

    4. Each of the several States, and the Territories, may establish a pre-majority age for the operation of a motor vehicle, but may add restrictions thereto which do not apply to those who have attained the age of 24 years.

    5. This act shall take effect immediately upon ratification.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 7:57 am

    Subtleties

    I’d be interested in seeing this ‘discussion’ done again, with Mr. Seaman getting a chance to take apart every one of Dr. DeJong’s arguments after he made them, instead of vice versa.

    DeJong calls for research, not anecdotes, but most alcohol research is funded by organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is vehemently anti-alcohol. Very little research is done with an eye to seeing how an 18 LDA could work; most research seems to be aimed at finding ways to support the 21 LDA. If research is funded by alcohol companies or groups, it is decried as biased, while funding by RWF is glossed over or lauded as in the public interest. All too much alcohol ‘research’ is self-supporting, citing inflated estimates like the ones BU’s own Ralph Hingson comes up with (1825 alcohol-related college deaths per year, 500-600 lives saved by 0.08 BAC laws), and then creating meta-analyses that pile the junk even higher, turning it this way and that until the ‘right’ answer falls out.

    The 18 LDA causes underground drinking. Massachusetts has been trying to grapple with underage drinking in the 21 LDA era with enforcement since the early 1990s, when keg registration laws first were put in place in western Mass. Like Prohibition, the laws keep getting wider acceptance and higher penalties, and more grandiose projections of success. Like Prohibition, they don’t work.

    An 18 LDA would cut underage drinking by over half…overnight. I could tell you by how much, but there are no figures on how much “underage drinking” is done by adults at age 18 to 20. That basic concept is apparently not worth researching.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 8:01 am

    It doesn’t really matter either way to me, I’m 19 and getting alcohol isn’t a problem for anybody at BU. Lower the drinking age, or keep it the same, I’m getting drunk regardless.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 9:16 am

    Age 21 not effective

    As a recent graduate I’m not sure how Seaman knows what he does, but he is spot on about drinking on campus. Not everyone drinks, and not everyone drinks excessively, but there are a lot of students who do. That it’s illegal deters no one, but it forces them to hide it. I think it gets better as they get older and have more experience with alcohol.

  • Jason Blanchette on 10.21.2010 at 10:24 am

    The United States Military Leadership Knows Better

    The thought that being old enough to die for your country makes you deserving of special privileges is a selfish civilian idea. Those of use that actually joined the military know that you actually lose rights when you join the military – including rights to drink. The military leadership can give permission and take away permission for you to drink, and the United States military leadership actually does not want their 18-20 year olds drinking. We can train young troops to fight in the most efficient military in the world, but we cannot train them to think when they drink. And the other erroneous belief is the belief that countries with lowered drinking ages have more responsible drinking among young adults. Europe has by far more teenage and young adult binge drinking than the United States, which is a shift that began around the early 1990′s. Britain is slowly becoming the binge drinking capital of the world. Over the past few years some people have debated in various European countries to raise the drinking age, including in France. Those young people in Europe are drinking with adults responsibly but then still going out on their own to drink irresponsibly, it’s just that they have easier access to alcohol and are beginning the irresponsible drinking at younger ages than Americans.

    • Anonymous on 09.11.2012 at 10:31 am

      Choosing to join the military is a choice just like any other. The law considers you mentally fit to make that choice at age 18. I don’t see why you think that means civilians are “selfish” for wanting an equal right to make decisions in all aspects of their lives. Take your military entitlement elsewhere.

  • John on 10.21.2010 at 10:52 am

    Reckless use of MADD Statistic's

    When you use NHTSA and MADD as source of alcohol statistics you are fool. Those numbers are so inflated and wrong it just feeds there cause. Obviously you don’t know where to find the actual numbers. http://www.getmadd.com is an excellent site and http://www.ridl.us/
    Please do your homework before using garbage statistics.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 11:13 am

    Fact- anyone who wants alcohol can get it at college, as much as they want.

    Can MADD and others deal with this reality? If you actually embrace what this means, then the whole point of alcohol at 21 is useless. It isn’t stopping anyone.

    What it DOES do is drive students underground. At a bar, everyone is in public, and the norms are set by not by 18 year olds but those with years of drinking experience. At a frat house/underage party, you have immature “adults” deciding what is appropriate behavior. If MADD takes responsibility for every death they claim to have prevented, shouldn’t they also take responsibility for every kid who died in a basement? Every kid afraid to get caught, who drove home drunk rather than call their parents for a ride? Every girl taken advantage of at an illegal party?

    I seriously doubt politicians will ever have the guts to lower the age. It doesn’t matter, the underage will drink anyway, always have and will.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 11:19 am

    19 or 20

    I agree with the first post. 19 or 20 seems like a reasonable drinking age. I also agree that 18 is too young, especially when many kids turn 18 turning their senior year of high school. Sure, every one can get alcohol from an older brother or cousin during high school or an older friend in college, but maybe lowering the age slightly will eliminate the need to break free and wildly experiment with college students.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 11:38 am

    parents allowing drinking-- results in excess?

    As someone who grew up around a family that drank in moderation at gatherings and parties, I learned about limits, not how to drink more. Dejong claims that parents who let children drink at home will lead to excessive drinking at college . I think this is false. Usually the kids who never “experimented” with under age drinking or who lived in an environment where drinking was taboo, binge drink at the first chance they get when they are in college. They are naive about drinking and its effects, often resulting in over consumption. People who have seen drinking and witnessed the mature ways of drinking, while growing up, care less about binge drinking. To these people, it’s really not that big of a deal anyway.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 11:45 am

    Teach how to safely break the law?

    Anyone else find it strange that Prof. DeJong proposed both alcohol safety education and stricter enforcement of law? That sounds right, let’s educate how to violate a law that everyone breaks and then call for stricter enforcement of such law. Something doesn’t seem to fit here.

  • Dan on 10.21.2010 at 12:13 pm

    boring drinkers

    With the exception of the fraternities that have developed clever transformer systems for their houses, alcohol seems to bring with it a complete lack of creativity. Beer pong, flip cup, quarters, all those games that have different names in each state, but are all the same–they’re not creative, they’re excuses to get drunk, socially. So maybe if institutions promoted creativity a bit more and provided realistic opportunities and alternatives for students (watching Finding Nemo is not realistic for college students), they might be able to not only curb the amount of drinking, but foster more creative, intelligent students.

    And no, video games and Facebook are not creative.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 12:38 pm

    All you have to know how BU feels about alcohol can be be found at Agannis when the BU band plays tequilla. I’ll be damned if you found a fan who wasn’t screaming TEQUILLA– LETS GET F**KED UP!

  • Buying Vs. Consuming? on 10.21.2010 at 12:44 pm

    I’m very mixed on this topic because I can understand both ways. I understand that lowering the drinking age probably would increase accidents and whatnot, but I also side with those who say that if you’re allowed to fight for your country at 18 you should be allowed to drink. My question is, why not in a way, split the law?
    Why not just say that only people above 21 can buy alcohol but allow anyone 18 or older to consume it? This allows all those 18 and older who just want to go to a party and drink or just drink casually with friend to do so without getting in trouble do so, while still putting some sort of barrier between them actually being able to purchase extreme amounts of alcohol at once. It will also only slightly change the number of younger kids (15,16,17 yr olds) who drink because they would have to get alcohol directly from a 21 year old or an 18 year old who knows a 21 year old as opposed to just a 21 year old.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 2:13 pm

    president brown comes off as very very very one dimensional in this article, and very very very estranged from the 18-20 year old generation which he governs. He is so out of touch with the kids at our school- and college kids in general; he comes off as conservative and unprogressive here, not to mention blinded by so called “statistics”….He talks about the many presidents who withdrew their votes seaman’s campaign for a redesign of the drinking laws, and he calls the pool of supporters “very small”. he points out that many received extreme criticism for signing….
    YES, a wonderful point!!!!!!!! Imagine all the presidents who WOULDNT sign because of the castigation they would undoubtedly receive from members their staff like who feel as Brown feels? Doesnt that point testify to the difficulty in distinguishing which presidents support the motion and which do not??Brown is completely unwilling to accept that data from the mama-bear-campaign of anti-underage-drinking may not be entirely credible. he will not concede to the fact that there are irrefutable gains in lowering the drinking age. Seaman however seems to have gleaned truths from both sides of the equation–the only rational way to examine a gray area.

  • Randa on 10.21.2010 at 3:50 pm

    I think if someone is in the military at 17/18, THEN let them be legal to drink with their legitimate military ID if they are 17-20 in undergrad schooling they should not be legal. Further, I agree that kids in college have way too much free time, are doing so much unsupervised experimentation and yet, they are still on their parents purse strings. It keeps sexual misconduct and consequences down, reduces drunk driving, alcohol related deaths additictions and injuries, promotes better academic habits, keeps more kiids in college because they did not screw up in a host of ways, and saves parents and kids money. You will have a hard time convincing the distributors of beer and alcohol, related games and those establishments that make a habit of looking away and knowing they are serving to underaged kids. I say the quality of human life is more important that that dollar this industry makes at the risk of kids. My heart still aches from the disasters I have personally experienced and witnessed over the years.

    • Anonymous on 09.30.2011 at 11:56 am

      You’ve got to be kidding. Special rights for people with a military ID? I suppose next you’ll suggest that only veterans get to vote. After all, only people in the military are responsible enough to enjoy the privileges of democratic society.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 4:19 pm

    parents allowing drinking

    when Dejong states, “parents who allow their kids to drink at home actually stimulate the kids to drink more overall than parents who don’t encourage their kids to drink at home. Those kids drink higher amounts and more frequently.” I would be interested in seeing the statistics behind that. I know I am but one example of this, but my parents let me be the judge of my actions, so alcohol didn’t have the “forbidden fruit” allure that it has for many kids growing up. When I got to college, I had already had my chance to drink in highschool, so didn’t binge drink. Most kids who I did see binge drinking came from households where drinking was completely forbidden, and seemed to enjoy binge drinking for many reasons, including it being a slap in the face to authority.

    I also think it would be interesting to see Seaman take down Dejong’s statements instead of the other way around.

    I like to think that when our generation gets into elected positions, they might change the laws. I’m surprised alcohol companies don’t get behind the cause for lowering the drinking age more since their profits would sure increase a lot.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 4:28 pm

    There is one universal truth: drinking will continue regardless of the law. It was true during prohibition, and it’s true now with the discriminatory drinking laws. You might as well allow the bars to rake in the extra business, which is probably also a safer environment for the students than some sketchy frat house.

  • Anonymous on 10.21.2010 at 8:59 pm

    leaving double standards in the dust

    I don’t know what all this fuss is about alcohol suddenly “becoming” available to high schoolers if the LDA were dropped to 18. Where I’m from people start at 14. This includes alcohol, cigarettes, and sometimes more. Yes, this usually leads to alcoholism, and no they don’t follow the drunk driving rules. Changing the law isn’t going to change things like this, and ‘alcohol education’ needs to come at an earlier age and from closer, more interested persons than a school health advisor.

    I was allowed to try alcohol so young as 5 when my family made homemade liqueur. It was the most disgusting thing in the world and I turned down future opportunities to drink until about 16 with a small glass of wine at the holidays. Being allowed to drink at home, and with that supervision of my family made going to parties to get drunk silly, and no fun because it all ended up seeming stupid.

    I do have to say I admire the second post (tho don’t actually do that.) Sure, I could go die for my country at 18 or buy cigarettes. But I couldn’t stay at a hotel even if I was driving long distance and the weather got bad. I’m graduating and have a perfect driving record, but I still can’t rent a car (though zipcars is working on fixing that, thankfully). And even being almost 24, the age when the varied US governments decide for tax purposes that you’re finally not dependent on your parents I’m still not taken seriously by other adults when making my own decisions.

    I find the way college students are babied to be very infantilizing. I’ve never lived in a dorm. I’ve never blacked out from drinking. I’ve never left candles burning all night. I think if we start treating our teenagers more like adults and start EXPECTING them to ACT like adults, then they will. As it is with people renting their first apartment at the age of 22 after graduating and not knowing even how to go about getting cable, that doesn’t help anyone.

    Point being, there’s a lot more that needs to be changed than just the drinking age is this country to get the kind of results that both sides are arguing for.

  • Andrew on 10.22.2010 at 10:58 am

    double standard...maybe

    I am normally a strong libertarian, believing that the government has not right to control what people put in their bodies. Let me be clear, I am firmly against drug use, over use of alcohol, and smoking, but the government has no business controlling persons personal health decisions. With that said, I think 21 is the appropriate age. Many medical studies have been found that the younger persons start drinking the likelyhood of alcoholism increases. Yes, an “age” is not going to prevent people from drinking. However, it curtails the purchasing ability of younger persons, making them rely on older persons, friends, and other available alcohol. If the age were lowered, it should not be to 18 but to maybe 19. 18 puts most high school seniors able to walk into a liquor store an purchase. That is a little dangerous from my perspective. I would, however, also assert that if someone has a valid active military ID, they should be able to purchase alcohol at 18. If you can die in battle you should be able to drink a beer.

  • Anonymous on 10.25.2010 at 8:25 am

    It's Not The Age

    The problem with drinking is not whether the legal age is 18 or 21, it’s that, like everything else, until you’ve done it you don’t know how. I went to college when and where the drinking age was 18 (17 for some of us), and binge drinking was no worse a problem than it is now, by appearances less so. Why? because I, and many of my fellow students grew up in households where, as kids, we were offerred a glass or two of wine on holidays. First of all, this de-mystifies alcohol. secondly, we got to see adults drinking responsibly. thirdly, alcohol isn’t exactly a child’s favorite tasting beverage. But mostly it’s because we knew our parents were concerned and involved with our activities, but without too short a leash on us. Consequently, when we were away at school without adult supervision, we knew how do drink in moderation, on weekends only. The students who went off the deep end with alcohol and other things were either the ones whose parents clamped down on them when they were younger and never let them make their own decisions and mistakes, so those students made them all freshman year, or else the ones whose parents never knew or cared what their kids were up to when in high school.
    As with so many things, this is a matter of parents who don’t teach their kids properly leaving their mess up to the government and other social institutions to deal with.

  • Evan Moore on 10.27.2010 at 9:07 am

    It's a joke to think that age dictates, or even infers maturity.

    The critical difference in maturity involved in making good decisions and behaving as an accountable adult has almost nothing to do with age or biological brain development stages.
    It has to do with life experience and personal development.

    I think it should be noted that limited access to alcohol (and marijuana) is the direct cause of many cases of prescription drug abuse, which is absolutely rampant in American schools. When teenagers can’t get drunk, they will find some other, much more dangerous way to alter their mindset. When I was 15, it was literally easier to get heroin than whisky.

    The pedestal effect of separating young people from alcohol is undeniable. That is not just anecdotal evidence, it is absolutely true. When college freshmen finally can get ahold of alcohol, they go insane with it, in an attempt to prove that they can handle it, to be cool. Does anyone really think that kids would die from alcohol poisoning at parties if it was totally legal to do so? Really? Nobody walks around in college bragging about how many cigarettes they smoke, because no one cares.

    And education efforts are about as important to college students as abstinence-only sex ed. It’s a joke. Students mock efforts to try to curb their drinking. It only perpetuates the idea that drinking is something bad, and thus bad-ass.
    “Education” is ineffective without hands on experience, any school president would tell you that.

    In regard to the age law, admit it, the real issue is drunk driving. If people didn’t drive drunk, there would be almost no evidence to support the benefits of the 21 LDA.
    Good thing here in Boston, we have the T.

    Cheers.

  • Anonymous on 10.29.2010 at 5:18 am

    18 is the right age to drink alcohol.

  • peter P on 11.03.2010 at 12:00 am

    18!!

    Definitely 18…

  • Scott on 11.03.2010 at 4:01 pm

    Drinking

    I think it should be up to each state without federal influence. Where I live we had to change the law or lose federal funding. That’s not right.

  • Ajax the Great on 11.10.2010 at 7:28 pm

    MLDA 21 = EPIC FAIL

    “It doesn’t really matter either way to me, I’m 19 and getting alcohol isn’t a problem for anybody at BU. Lower the drinking age, or keep it the same, I’m getting drunk regardless.”

    What better sign that the 21 drinking age is the biggest alcohol policy failure since Prohibition?

  • Anonymous on 11.29.2010 at 11:28 am

    To united states military leadership person

    Actually in the Marine corps you can be 18 and up and drink. They changed it so you can enjoy yourself with the others. Most of the military is under the age of 21 and if youa re at a military function and on a military base you can drink along with everyone else. And being a veteran that i am and only being 20 when I joined I do not think in anyway that it is a selfish civilian idea at all. Most deaths in Iraq were of military members between the ages of 18 and 20. Why cant they enjoy a cold beer when they make it home alive after fighting for others who wont or cant go over there. I dont see a problem with it and I agree that people are going to drink regardless of the age. My mother use to drop me off at peoples houses knowing I was going to drink and just put guidelines out there. Just like the military and everyone who has ever had rules or guidelines. Lower the age to 18 and add a few guidelines and things will be just like they are now. It shouldnt matter how old you are!!!

  • Anonymous on 06.16.2011 at 12:47 pm

    Alcohol license at 18?

    People should have a license to buy alcohol at 18. Part of those requirements are a clean juvie record, an alcohol understanding test + course, and that you have a high school diploma. These are just thoughts off the top of my head, but the basic idea is that just like driving is a privilege that can be taken away, alcohol consumption should be privilege and not a right.

    I say with a high school diploma (including GED) because it means the person who can have legal access to alcohol won’t be enrolled in a school near people who are underage on a daily basis. Its not 100% effective but it definitely helps. It also allows people to be forced into alcohol education when we legally become adults.

    So that we dont have to spend more tax money, maybe the alcohol lisence center could be a branch of the DMV (although I hate how the DMV runs and strongly believe it needs improvement, this is all I can think of at the moment)

    • anon on 09.28.2011 at 10:24 pm

      this kind of impedes the whole ‘freedom’ aspect of our country, also im sure major alcohol companies like anhueser busch wouldnt be too happy to hear that a large portion of their big customers (fuck ups) just got taken away, and they probably have more say than you do. dont get me wrong though i do agree with the basis of your idea, i just think it would never be a reality.

  • Joe Marvelle on 06.16.2011 at 4:52 pm

    too much free time

    Someone said, college students have way too much free time. Honestly, screw you. I wake up at 5 in the morning, go to class, and work straight until bed around 11 or 12. I don’t know a single non adult with less free time than I have during the semester. I am not the only one. Other engineers as well as tech majors will tell similar story. On top of that, we will all be in debt for 10 years. No one should act like their generation is somehow better than ours.Lets be honest. My generation rocks. My grandparents generation was the greatest generation ever. All of the world’s and this country’s problems come from the generation in charge right now. I can’t wait till you idiots get out of the way. You can start by not trying to make decisions for me or judge my peers.

    Finally, I am 21, but I have known more about alcohol safety than my parents or any other adult for years. I have been drinking for years. I have never drove drunk. I know a few of my friends have and their reason was to avoid getting caught drinking because they were underage. My parents know better and they taught me better by letting me drink with them. Lets get some real stats here. Use some science. To the author: don’t be afraid to correct interviewees in the actual article if they cite stats and facts that don’t exist.

    The age that you can drink should be the same age that you become an adult. If they think the age of adulthood should change, that could make sense. Make it 19. Then no high schoolers are legal. This also means you can’t send 18 year olds to way. If you want to send 18 year olds to war, you should probably call them adults and let them do what they want with their own lives.

    • Jon Isham on 04.14.2012 at 5:03 pm

      I don’t disagree with most of what you said but just so you know — your generation does NOT rock. I agree that the generation currently in charge is fucking up the country/world for all of us but the whole country is terrified of the day your generation is running things. (If there is anything left to run.) You sound like a hard working chap and all, no doubt becuase you are an engineering major. You have to be. I went to school for mechanical engineering and I know that 8% of students were in the engineering program and not all of those graduated as engineers. The majority of college students do not wake up at 5. They are most likely sleeping through their 9am class, half paying attention at their afternoon class and then working part-time just enough to buy beer. Like it or not that sums up your generation. It is an utter failure and comprises the poster children for why many, many people should not be allowed to breed. Or at least have a damn course on how-to-parent-children. As I said, you sound like a good kid. Don’t stick up for your generation with blanket statements that don’t apply. It kind of undermined your whole statement.

  • arieal on 05.08.2012 at 10:03 am

    drinking age should be lowerd if we are considerd an adult at the age of 18 meaning we have the right to make our own decision

  • F.M.C. on 09.10.2012 at 12:25 pm

    What about the simple fact that most countries have a legal drinking age of 18; which encompasses Singapore (one of the strictest, and cleanest countries on the planet). Japan has one of 20, and China has one of 18; yet all the aforementioned countries seem to outscore Americans in Science, Math, and Technology. Thus, it would seem alcohol isn’t the problem. It is the mollycoddling, “babying’ and systematic/selective stripping of responsiblities that young adults experience that seems to be the problem. You want your nations “children” to behave, treat them as adults! If they can sacrifice their lives for your country, start familes, adopt children, smoke cigarettes, pay taxes, sign binding contracts, take out student loans, and pick your president; give them the last right they deserve. Lower the drinking age and let them prove themselves, treat them like the young adults that they truly are. If every other nation in the world treats young adults as adults, and the young adults of other countries are doing well, even outproforming Americans, why should “adolescents” in America be treated any differently? Although in a few months I will be able to legally consume alcoholic beverages; younger Americans should be given that basic trust. Historically prohibition of anything has never worked, why would the highest drinking age in the world work any better?

  • Anonymous on 09.11.2012 at 10:25 am

    The current drinking age has become a sort of modern prohibition against legal adults aged 18-20. And like prohibition, it is a proven failure. Lower the drinking age to 18 or scrap it altogether and leave it to the parents to teach responsibility to their children. You can’t honestly expect to combat binge drinking by turning alcohol into a forbidden fruit!

  • Yesayes on 10.02.2012 at 9:30 pm

    The only issue I have with their study on how the change in age 18->21 drinking law resulted in less alcohol related incidents on the road is that they should really be focusing on the 18-21 age group and not the whole picture.. What do 40 year olds drinking and driving have to do with 18 year olds drinking and driving? That is the impression I get when they say there was a study showing this definite decrease. Show me a 100% proven decrease in that age group and I will gladly say 21 is fair enough, but they need to change other laws such as joining the military to age 21. Dying wtihout having a first drink with the people important to you is like going through life and never experiencing sex or having the opportunity to reproduce and continue the human race.. so yes we should all just die off by their standards. A pretty big twist, but taht is how I see it honestly.

  • Anonymous on 01.04.2013 at 9:50 am

    I do believe that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18. But understand that in Parts of Europe there is not even a drinking age. It is by the amount you are allowed to purchase regardless of age 21 or not. in my opinion I support the customs in Europe and thought to myself how clever of an idea that is to have a certain limit of how much alcohol to purchase.

    • connor on 05.27.2014 at 7:40 am

      you tha man

  • europeanboy on 03.07.2013 at 6:06 pm

    You crazy Americans,

    21?! So in other words, you highschoolers and college boys and girls are constantly doing something illegal? And don’t learn how to drink responsibly at that?
    It’s not like alcohol is no problem in Europe, believe it or not, it is as much of a drug here as it is anywhere else. And as far as no legal drinking age in Europe, well that goes for a couple of countries that don’t care too much for laws anyways: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_drinking_age#Europe

    Of course, we don’t mind you guys coming over here and have a beer with us, anytime.

    Sincerely, Europe

  • Alex on 11.16.2013 at 1:56 am

    I could get arrested and be treated as an adult AT 18, I can have kids and if i dont want the kids the mother can legally tell the child support company thing and they will force me and treat me as an adult and force me to pay the mother of my children’s AT 18, I could rent an apartment AT 18, I could have a drivers license and drive with out anybody’s supervision AT 18, I COULD BUY “CIGARETS” AT 19 WHAT THE HELL!! 19, 19,19 To buy cigarets, A F***cking cigaret is worst than alcohol, I could start piloting airplanes AT 17, I could F*****ng be forced by the united states of america to go to war AT 18 and kill people if necessary Yes kill people and they will authorize it and They also applaud that when you start walking through the airport bringing the victory the the U.S, What victory? Hundreds of people you killed?? AT 18, America just says well he’s 18 we can use him for war yay cheers, They wont ways three years for that person become 21 to send them to war, NOO, there not idiots, All they think about is business behind the table which explains why you can buy cigarets at 19 and not 21, Because they want less people on there organization they just want to get rid of people and kill US Citizens With food with don’t suppose to be eating in the first place like MC.Donalds, And the most important one for them is Youuuu can vote for them ATTT 18, Which is why i told you why everything is done behind the table, IT IS ALL BUSINESS, They wont wait for your ass to reach 21 for them to receive your vote, nooo, And with all that i cant buy a beer at 18 Or at least 19??? Goodbye

  • Anonymous on 12.06.2013 at 10:32 am

    MADD stands for MOTHERS against drunk driving. One day though the children and adults (18 year olds)that live with there mothers one day go off to live on there own. Therefore the M in MADD shouldn’t be spending all there time being involved in getting the drinking age moved up, they should focus there time on giving there children and young adults the proper morals before they leave the house. If you agree with me reply, and if you have add on ideas to my thought please share.

  • TDOGGY DOG on 12.11.2013 at 9:37 am

    Why couldn’t the Govt try this. Provide each 18 year old with a special license to buy liquor, after they take some class. Then if they f up even once behind the wheel or go do some destruction of property it is taken away and they would have to do breathalyzers. That way there buddies cant go buy them liquor because the breathalyzer would indicate that. Also if they screw up not only do they lose the privilege of buying liquor a portable breathalyzer would be like a public shaming tool to make them feel guilty. Like I said I think the Govt could just try this for a few years and if it goes swell terrific if not oh well.

  • corey on 12.16.2013 at 9:14 pm

    strongest point here, if you can’t trust an eighteen year old to drink responsibly, then you shouldn’t be able to trust them to go fight and die for YOUR freedoms and rights. Can’t drink a beer until you’re twenty-one, then you can’t join the military until you’re twenty-one either.

  • xavier on 02.07.2014 at 1:12 pm

    I think that waiting till you are 21 to drink is a form of prohibition I don’t think that the government should be involved in these decisions

  • Nobody on 02.25.2014 at 10:53 am

    i honestly think you should be able to drink at 18.

  • Annonomus on 04.23.2014 at 11:57 am

    Kids are going to drink regardless of the age law.

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