Underage Drinking: A Big Problem


Underage drinking is wide spread through out the United States.
According to Klaidman, of 10 million people under the age 21 who admitted they\'d
had a cocktail in the last month, 4.4 million said that they are "binge
drinkers," or people who have had more than four drinks in a row. Also, alcohol
use among 12 to 17 year olds has risen .9% over the past three years (137).
Lack of entertainment on college campuses and easy availability of alcohol can
lead to underage drinking as well. Here at UWEC, it is easy to find a party
where alcohol is provided to underage drinkers. There is also not much else to
do in Eau Claire, unless one has access to a motor vehicle. "For 20 year-old
Iowa State junior Scott Christy, acquiring alcohol is not a problem. All he has
to do is contact a friend... and within half an hour he can have the drink of
his choice" (Frerking). Because underage drinking is such a problem in today\'s
society, measures must be taken to reduce the problem.
One solution to the problem of underage drinking is to lower the
drinking age from 21 years down to 18 or 19 years. At first glance, this seems
like a good idea because a large portion of underage drinkers, mainly college
students, would now no longer be underage and would be able to drink legally.
Problem solved, or is it? According to Reginald Smart, in 1971 the Canadian
province of Ontario lowered its drinking age from 21 years to 18 years, thinking
this would help alleviate its underage drinking problem. At first, the new age
law seemed to be working. Soon, bar owners complained because the young
drinkers scared off the above 21 crowd, just took up space, and did not drink
as much as the above 21 crowd. People in Ontario also started to notice more
accidents involving alcohol and more public displays of drunkenness by young
people. School officials also were distressed by the fact that students were
allowed to drink at lunch, and then returned to class too intoxicated to take
part in the learning process. Also, school functions, such as dances and
sporting events became occasions to drink. It seemed the only people still
supporting the new age law were the young people who gained the privilege of
drinking from the new age law. Finally, in 1978 the drinking age was raised
(90,93,105). Also, lowering the drinking age is not a good solution because
it completely ignores minors aged 12-17 which according to the aforementioned
statistic, are starting to increase their consumption of alcohol. To sum up,
lowering the drinking is not a viable solution to the problem of underage
drinking.
Another solution to the problem of underage drinking is enacting
stricter penalties on those who choose to drink under the legal age. The
consequences of underage drinking can range from fines to jail time to driver\'s
license suspensions to community service (What Are the Facts of Underage
Drinking). According to Renee Fisher, Kansas legislators lowered the limit of
intoxication from .08 to .02 for underage drinkers. This means it takes less
alcohol for someone under 21 to be legally intoxicated. According to the
Associated Press, New Jersey legislators approved a bill that would allow police
to arrest people under the age of 21 who possess alcoholic beverages on private
property. In Michigan, people underage can now be charged for attempting to
"purchase, consume, or possess" alcohol (Rhodes). Although it is good that the
government is taking steps to curb underage drinking, these measures will
probably not have much of an effect. When people under 21 go out to drink, they
are not thinking of the consequences of their actions, they just want to have
fun. They worry about being caught, but this will make them more cautious, not
stop them from drinking. Even if they are caught, this probably will not stop
them from drinking again. According to the Collegian Editorial Board, "... even
if a person gets arrested for a violation of the fake ID law, that doesn\'t mean
they won\'t try again." In summary, stiffer penalties will not solve the problem
of underage drinking.
Prevention is the only solution that can drastically reduce underage
drinking. Children need to start being educated about the dangers of alcohol
when they are young. Not only the dangers associated with drinking, such as
alcohol poisoning, but also dangers such as rape, assault, and drunk driving.
Parents should also talk to their children about underage drinking and about
drinking responsibly and parents should be at home