Archive for July, 2009

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Today is a big media day for the team at [CR] – check out Board Member Barrett Seaman on the Fox News Strategy Room with Ellis Henican and a group of Fox News Channel interns at 4 PM EST. They’ll cover the debate about the legal drinking age.

This afternoon’s wave of interest comes thanks to Shari Roan at the Los Angeles Times, who broke some significant news late last week: Dr. Morris Chafetz, a member of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving that recommended changing the drinking age from 18 to 21 during the 1980s, spoke out about his change of heart on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the law. Chafetz said that his desire for consensus on the issue of the legal drinking age caused him to make one of the biggest mistakes of his professional career, and he now believes that Legal Age 21 “has not worked.” Media outlets across the country picked up the story of his changed position on 21…here are a few samples to go along with your weekly update:

Stories this week:

Dr. Chafetz joined The Patt Morrison Show on Southern California Public Radio to discuss his regret about the recommendation to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21. You can listen to the segment to hear from Dr. Chafetz himself and many supportive callers.

When you’re finished listening to the segment on SCPR, read Amanda Carey’s take on Dr. Chafetz’s announcement at the Reason “Hit & Run” blog: “Simply passing a law isn’t going to stop young adults from drinking, an activity that has long been a sign of adulthood. Yet because of the fear of punishment, those young adults are much less likely to seek help when the partying gets out of hand, and the results are frequently disastrous.”

Not to be outdone, Ellis Henican of Newsday and am/NY wrote his own column on the Chafetz announcement which was re-printed at Henican began his column, titled “21 Has Lost Its Buzz — Time to Lower the Drinking Age,” with a simple observation: “Somewhere in America, there may be a college student who is dissuaded from drinking by Legal Age 21. It’s a big country, you know.” As we noted earlier, check out Henican and [CR] Board Member Barrett Seaman on the Fox News Strategy Room this afternoon!

As we mentioned yesterday, Tim Rounds’ efforts to lower the legal drinking age to 18 in licensed establishments in South Dakota is getting plenty of attention. Check out Chet Brokaw’s initial report in the Associated Press, and read about the details in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

In other news…

Administrators at North Dakota State University have implemented some changes to campus alcohol policies that will try to improve on the culture of binge drinking after several athletes had run-ins with law enforcement. Check out WDAY-TV’s report on the changes, and read about the plan to incorporate these changes at the NDSU’s Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Programs page.

Federal restrictions on highway funds prevent the individual states from experimenting with alternatives to Legal Age 21, and if some legislators get their way, the strings attached to highway funding will get even longer. Adam Richtel of the New York Times reported Wednesday that a group of Senators is proposing legislation that would require states to implement bans on texting while driving, otherwise they would face a 25% reduction in federal funding. It’s clear that distracted driving is a major safety issue, and we want to get your take on these incentives. Do you think this type of incentive will encourage safer driving, or is it another example of the federal government meddling in state business?

If we missed something this week, let us know in the comments. Have a great weekend, and be sure to check out [CR] online and on the radio this afternoon!

SD: Lawmaker Considers Alternatives to 21

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Via the Mitchell Daily Republic in South Dakota, Associated Press reporter Chet Brokaw wrote today that a local lawmaker is considering alternatives to Legal Age 21. Tim Rounds offered a simple rationale for his desire to explore a fresh approach to binge drinking: “You’ve got 19-year-old kids who are going out to house parties, who are going out in the countryside and drinking…maybe it’s time to look at the fact prohibition isn’t working.” Rounds’ proposal would allow 18-20 year olds to drink in controlled, licensed establishments. What do you think? Leave your feedback in the comments.

Roanoke Times “Under 21” on Substance-Free Dorms

Monday, July 27th, 2009

In the Sunday edition of the Roanoke Times, Sharla Bardin posted another installment of the paper’s “Under 21” series about underage alcohol use on Virginia college campuses. Bardin profiled a group of students who live in substance-free housing at Hollins University, and discussed how these housing options are implemented to promote healthy living for college students. Hollins President Nancy Grey told the Times that the school uses these housing arrangements so that students who abstain from alcohol use are “as comfortable on this campus as a 21-year-old who chooses to drink.”

Grey also discussed her rationale for signing on to the Amethyst Initiative: “My motivation was not specific to Hollins, but from having worked on a number of college campuses. I’m very much aware that having a drinking age of 21 does not stop underage drinking.”

Are you a college student who has experience with substance-free housing? Are these options attractive to you? Leave us your feedback in the comments, and be sure to check out the TimesJune 28 interview with [CR] President John McCardell.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Now that this week is over, the [CR] staff has returned from the NCSL and ALEC conferences in Philadelphia and Atlanta. We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our supporters across the country for spreading the word and helping us achieve our goals at these two major events. At both conferences, we met with lawmakers, staffers, and other organizations who are interested in continuing this conversation over the course of the next few months. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for the [CR] newsletter so that you can stay up to date on all of the latest developments as we look to build on this positive momentum. As promised, here are a few photos from the NCSL Summit in Philadelphia:

[CR] Display

(The [CR] exhibition display set up inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center)

[CR] Gear

(Choose Responsibility gear on display at the NCSL Summit)

CR Stickers

(The new [CR] sticker design. What do you think of it?)

Many thanks to intern Will Bellaimey for holding down the fort on the [CR] blog while most of the staff was in Philadelphia. Here are the latest headlines from around the country:

Stories this week:

After returning from Philadelphia, [CR] President John McCardell was interviewed on a number of different radio stations across the country from Boston, MA to Portland, OR to discuss the 25th anniversary of the signing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Here’s a small sampling of audio clips – check them out if you didn’t catch the interviews on your local station: KGO-AM (San Francisco, CA), KKLS-FM (The Hot 104.7 Morning Show with Andy, Sioux Falls, SD), and KMOX-AM (Total Information AM, St. Louis, MO).

A controversy is brewing in Minneapolis as lawmakers are considering changes to local laws in an attempt to prevent music fans under the age of 21 from having access to alcohol at 18-and-over shows. According to Tim Horgen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “officials say some of the more unsavory elements of downtown nightlife — fighting, drunken disturbances — originate at businesses that cater to clubbers below the legal drinking age.” A proposed change would bar alcohol sales from all 18-and-over shows while keeping the 18-20 crowd out of 21+ shows. Safety is a major concern, but some young people aren’t convinced that the changes will accomplish anything. Jen Boyles of the Minneapolis City Pages spoke with a local student who said that he “goes to several 18+ shows per month and hasn’t noticed a problem with people drinking inside the club-they drink before they go in.” What do you think of these potential changes? Will dry 18-and-over shows help curb alcohol abuse? Will policy changes harm the music scene for legal adults in Minneapolis? Leave your take in the comments.

Did you catch [CR] Executive Director Mike Giuliani’s comments in the Des Moines Register earlier this week? When Register reporter Reid Forgrave asked him about the drinking age debate, he said that cultural change should be our goal. While alcohol used to be part of a social event for young adults, Giuliani said, “now alcohol is the event.”

In other news…

Baldur Hedinsson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a new study that tries to determine which messages are effective in curbing alcohol abuse by young people. According to this new research, temperance lectures aren’t useful: “scare tactics” don’t work, but one-on-one interventions can help.

The editorial board of the Mason City Globe Gazette spoke out against proposed local legislation that would allow law enforcement officials to cite underage drinkers for having alcohol on their breath. They made it clear that they don’t endorse lawbreaking behavior, but are aware of the limitations of these types of laws: “Obviously there are no easy solutions to underage drinking, but giving police authority to test without probable cause seems over the top, jams up good kids for doing something we know they’re going to do anyway, and carries too much potential for selective enforcement.” What do you think of their position?

Did we miss something in this week’s update? Leave a link for us in the comments and enjoy the weekend!

Debating the Drinking Age In Iowa

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The debate over legal age 21 has spread to the cornfields of Iowa, where last week seven 19 year-olds were arrested for possessing alcohol at a bonfire party at the home of the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa law allows 18 to 20 year olds to drink in a private residence if they have written permission from their parent or legal guardian, which some of the firegoers apparently lacked. An article in today’s Des Moines Register notes that

the spotlight shining on what happened at the [Chief Justice’s] 29-acre property outside Grimes illuminates a divide among parents: Follow the letter of the law, prohibiting alcohol consumption by 18 to 20 year-olds under most circumstances, or, facing the reality that many young adults will drink, allow it with supervision.

We hope that parents in Iowa and across the country will take this question seriously. When a law is so routinely violated, even in the homes of our highest officials: is that law really working? At CR we believe that state legislators, in Iowa and elsewhere, should be able to look for new solutions to the problem of binge drinking among young people without fearing retaliation from the federal government.

[CR] at the NCSL Summit.

Monday, July 20th, 2009

This week we’ve sent Grace and Nick to Philadelphia for the National Conference of State Legislators Legislative Summit. State Senators and Representatives from around the country will be meeting to share their ideas for effective state government. On Wednesday, [CR] President John McCardell will be giving a presentation entitled Binge Drinking: A Public Health Crisis to a group of over fifty legislators who serve on key committees in states tackling this problem. Check out the [CR] video archive to get a taste of what John will be saying. And check back here or follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the week from Philadelphia, and as always, from our DC headquarters. What would you want your State Senators and Representatives to know about the reality of drinking in your community? Let us know in the comment thread.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, July 17th, 2009

On this date 25 years ago, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed into law as part of a widespread national effort to cut down on drunk driving. During his remarks before signing the bill, President Reagan lauded “the rise of a great national movement, a movement that’s led by men and women in all walks of life. It began in the community; it spread to State governments; and now it’s won wide support here in our Nation’s Capital – the movement against drunk driving.” 25 years later, it’s clear that we’ve made tremendous progress in educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving, but the same cannot be said about the issue of binge drinking. Unfortunately, the law has helped create environments that encourage toxic, goal-oriented drinking and put America’s young adults at increasingly greater risk. It’s time to consider a change, and in order to find a solution to this persistent public health crisis, we’ll need a similar grassroots movement starting with citizens from all corners of the country. As [CR] President and founder John McCardell put it in his recent essay in The Atlantic, “Binge drinking is as serious a crisis today as drunk driving was two decades ago. It’s time we tackled the problem like adults.”

Stories this week:

On Thursday, Momo Zhou of ABC News interviewed Dr. McCardell for her story about medical amnesty policies on college campuses. When asked about the usefulness of amnesty policies to make students’ lives safer, Dr. McCardell said, “Our official position can only be abstinence, but what do we do in a situation where 75 or 80 percent of our population is not abstaining? We’re talking about saving human lives, because the fact is, young people’s lives are at risk.”

Dan Romer, Director of the Adolescent Risk Communication Institute at the University of Pennylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, added his letter to the pile of New York Times editorial responses. He outlined the consequences of Legal Age 21 for administrators who try to inform students about alcohol in a meaningful way: “The laws actually prevent colleges from educating young people about how to drink responsibly by making it impossible to hold events at which only moderate drinking is permitted. As a result, college students drink in private settings where responsible adults cannot monitor their behavior.”

As you may know, there are some exceptions to Legal Age 21’s prohibition on alcohol – and it appears as though another one may soon be on the books in South Carolina. This week, Richland County Judge Mel Maurer declared that state laws barring possession and consumption of alcohol by 18-20 year olds are unconstitutional. 18-20 year olds will still be prohibited from purchasing alcohol, however, and a state spokeswoman said the decision will be appealed to a circuit court. Joe McCulloch, the attorney representing a 20 year-old student who was ticketed for possession of alcohol in March, said, “the constitutional decision to allow 18 year olds a vast array of freedoms, including the ability to fight for our country, suggests that the privilege of alcohol consumption as well should be extended to our citizens who are 18 years old and above.” In his coverage of the ruling, Steve Shanafelt of the Spartanburg Spark noted that this decision could have an impact on the federal funding incentives attached to Legal Age 21: “if you can’t bust kids for underage drinking, it saps most of the argument for the federally mandated age restrictions on buying alcohol in the first place.” What are your thoughts on the ruling, which maintains the prohibition on purchasing? Will it be upheld in the appeals process?

In other news…

Linda Borg of the Providence Journal reported on a new policy in Barrington, Rhode Island that will mandate alcohol screening for all students who attend high school dances. As Borg noted, “under the previous policy, students were asked to submit to an alcohol-breath test if school officials felt that there was probable cause that a teenager had been drinking. Now, all students will have to be tested before they are permitted into a school social function.” This new decision was met with some controversy in the community – Steven Brown of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union said the new rule “shows a lack of concern for students’ basic privacy rights. The end result will be virtually useless in terms of addressing the town’s alcohol problem.” Do you agree, or can this policy help cut down on instances of drinking among younger students?

Join Together reported this week that on July 1, a new ignition interlock law went into effect in Missouri. From this month forward, all repeat drunk driving offenders will be required to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles.

Did you catch Patrick McArdle’s recent piece in the Rutland Herald about the recent spike in underage drinking parties? If not, you can read about it here.

As always, if we missed something this week, leave a link in the comments. Have a great weekend!

Rutland Herald: Secretive Underage Drinking on the Rise

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

On Tuesday, Patrick McArdle of Vermont’s Rutland Herald wrote about the difficulties law enforcement officials are having in trying to enforce Legal Age 21 this summer. In Bennington County, local police have broken up several underage drinking parties in isolated rural areas, and many of the people involved are teens from neighboring states. Vermont State Police Sgt. Brian Turner told the Herald that “teenagers were crossing the border into Vermont to drink because they believe it is more rural and they think there will be less law enforcement.”

Leitha Cipriano, executive director of the county’s Center for Restorative Justice, also noted that the local justice system is bending under the weight of the increased number of cases – officials have been “swamped” as they’ve tried to deal with the latest spike.

Are these types of parties common occurrences in your area? Have you heard about young people drinking in secret to avoid the reach of law enforcement? Let us know in the comments.

Alcohol-Related Arrests on the Rise at U. Iowa

Monday, July 13th, 2009

According to Tyler Lyon of The Daily Iowan, newly-released statistics from a report at the University of Iowa show that alcohol-related non-traffic arrests among students increased 12.5% from the 2007-2008 to the 2008-2009 academic year. University administrators say the problem is made worse by a lack of alternative entertainment options for students, who fill these gaps with episodes of reckless drinking and irresponsible behavior.

Lyon spoke with UI Panhellenic Association President Treacy Weldon, who indicated that the group is “working with the Interfraternity Council to find ways to reduce binge drinking and prevent citations and arrests.”

Are you a student who has experienced similar troubles on your campus? Send us your feedback in the comments section.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Earlier this week, the New York Times published some reader responses to the paper’s recent editorial on the issues of binge drinking and the legal drinking age. If you haven’t had a chance, read all of the letters and Kathleen Reeves’ reaction piece at Campus Progress. Taken together, these three items should give you a good sense of the nature of the debate. In the end, we have to agree with Times reader Matt Hoffman, who noted the “futility” of an outright ban on alcohol use for college students. For the rest of the week’s news, check out these headlines:

Stories this week:

Orr Shtuhl, a contributor to the Washington City Paper’s “Young and Hungry” blog, weighed in with his take on John McCardell’s “Teach Drinking” essay in the most recent issue of The Atlantic. Shtuhl wrote, “The point here is that the current law is constricting, and we need more discourse and fleshed-out ideas before we can solve it.”The Journal News in White Plains, NY, published an editorial in support of Legal Age 21 back on July 2nd, and reader William Farrell wrote in to offer an alternative to the paper’s position. Farrell, and engineering student at McGill University in Montreal, argued that Legal Age 21 promotes an “all-or-nothing” culture that marginalizes those who would drink responsibly: “The problem in American universities is that the middle ground of drinking responsibly is removed from the equation, leaving students who would otherwise enjoy a casual drink to either drink as much as they can in as short a time possible, so not to get caught, or to not drink at all. More often than not, students would choose the former.”

James Wright, the former President of Dartmouth College and a signatory to the Amethyst Initiative, held nothing back when he spoke to WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vermont about his opinion on the legal drinking age. Though his Amethyst Initiative colleagues don’t endorse any particular policy, Wright said that in his opinion, the drinking age should be lowered: these young adults “are coming back here with wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan; they can’t go down the street and buy a beer. We can give them some of the most lethal weapons in the world to carry with them and we ask them to put themselves at risk and in danger and when they come back here they cant buy a beer because they’re simply not adults. They can select the president of the United States, but we don’t think they’re adult enough to buy a beer.”

In other news…

Joseph Szczesny of Time shed light on the ignition interlock provisions that may be included in the new version of the federal transportation bill when it is re-authorized. [CR] supports the use of ignition interlocks as an effective, tailored tool to keep drunk drivers off the highways. What’s your take on interlock technology?

The Los Angeles Times discovered an unexpected problem in supermarkets that can make it easy for underage drinkers to have access to alcohol: many large stores have self-checkout lanes that aren’t monitored, making it easier for sales of alcohol to go unnoticed. Staff writer Jerry Hirsch reported on an effort in the California legislature to tighten restrictions on self-checkout lanes so that all alcohol sales get routed through live cashiers. Read about the new bill here.

Did you catch the news from Florida this week about efforts to curb binge drinking at the annual Florida-Georgia college football game? David Hunt of the Florida Times-Union had the story over the weekend.

As always, leave us a link in the comments section if you found a newsworthy item.