Archive for September, 2009

New Commentary on [CR] Responds

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

This morning, Toben Nelson and Traci Toomey of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and several of their colleagues published a commentary in response to [CR] President John McCardell’s September 16th piece outlining the case against Legal Age 21. We encourage you to weigh in with your comments in the “Sound Off” section on the CNN website. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you read their essay and let CNN’s online audience know that an open debate about Legal Age 21 is necessary:

“In the 1970s when many states reduced their drinking ages, drinking-related deaths among young people increased. When the drinking age of 21 was restored, deaths declined. This effect is not simply a historical artifact explained by advances in safety technology and other policies.”

Choose Responsibility does not endorse a legislative program that would cut three years off of the legal drinking age without implementing an education and licensing program to foster positive change. When many states reduced their drinking ages in the 1970’s, none of them instituted the type of education and licensing program that Choose Responsibility endorses. Our experiences in the United States and in New Zealand have clearly shown that simple changes in age limits will not do enough to improve the culture of toxic drinking by young people – education and licensing initiatives are vital to changing the culture of toxic drinking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that setting the drinking age at 21 saves the lives of 900 young people each year and has saved more than 25,000 lives since 1975.”

Claims about the effectiveness of Legal Age 21 in regard to “lives saved” deserve close scrutiny. As we noted in our response to Dr. McCardell’s 60 Minutes appearance in February, this statistic is the result of a simple mathematical formula that takes 13% of the difference between one year’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities and the next and attributes the product to the 21 year-old drinking age. Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer in Economics at Harvard University, has recently produced research that calls this statistic into question.

Nelson and Toomey claim that the debate about Legal Age 21 has “no foundation in research,” but the realities of binge drinking are alarming and are getting worse:

Legal Age 21 is not equipped to deal with the consequences of the current culture of toxic drinking by young people. It’s time to take this debate seriously – dive into the comments at CNN’s website to show your support for Choose Responsibility and our mission.

Slate on Ignition Interlocks

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Last week, the editors of the Slate legal blog “Jurisprudence” published a post written by LaDoris Cordell, the first judge in the state of California to order convicted DUI offenders to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles. The post traces the history of interlocks in California, from Cordell’s first order in 1987 to the present day. Currently, the California legislature is considering an expanded pilot program that could eventually mandate this type of interlock installation statewide by 2016.

Interlocks offer a form of targeted enforcement that is successful at taking drunk drivers off the roads. What’s your take on this article? Let us know in the comments.

Kansas Colleges Battle Binge Drinking

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

This week, KSN-TV in Wichita, Kansas reported on statewide efforts to curb binge drinking on college campuses. Recently, Kansas State University officials began an investigation into an alcohol-fueled hazing incident that occurred just a few weeks after the school year started. The KSN report makes it clear that these problems persist despite the efforts of law enforcement and university administrators: “No matter how many regulations are put in place, officials and students admit heavy drinking isn’t going away.”

If you’re a college student in Kansas, check out KSN’s report to see what types of policies are being considered to create a healthier environment.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Covers Drinking Age Debate

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Last Friday, [CR] President John McCardell traveled to Cleveland to give a presentation on the drinking age at Case Western Reserve University. Janet Okoben, the higher education reporter with the Plain Dealer had a chance to interview Dr. McCardell before the presentation. He told the crowd of students and administrators,

“You know and I know that professional law enforcement has a frustratingly difficult time enforcing this law. And you know and I know that the more successfully we try to enforce this law on our campuses, the more successfully we simply push the problem deeper underground and farther beyond our boundaries, which puts it not only out of our sight but beyond our control and beyond our authority.”

Visit the Plain Dealer to read the rest of the article.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Earlier this week, [CR] President John McCardell’s commentary “Drinking Age of 21 Doesn’t Work” on garnered plenty of attention, and as a result, he joined several radio hosts across the country to discuss the issue of the drinking age. Dr. McCardell joined Mitch Albom, Sam Greenfield of WVNJ Bergen County New Jersey, and Karel Bouley of KRXA Carmel Valley, California – you can visit their sites to see information about the interviews. Would you like to offer your take on Dr. McCardell’s commentary? Visit CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 blog to post your thoughts, and use our ShareThis tools to spread the story to your social networks. For the best of the other recent news items about the drinking age and binge drinking, check out these headlines:

Stories this week:

Crackdowns on underage drinking in Athens, Georgia don’t appear to be working very well, according to Blake Aued of the Athens Banner-Herald. This week, he noted that “the Athens-Clarke Commission voted in September 2007 to ban late-night drink specials, cheap drinks and bar employees who are under 21 years old from checking identification at the door.” And the result? “College students do not seem to have changed their drinking habits.”

Unfortunately, Athens isn’t the only college town struggling to fight dangerous drinking. Scott Waldman of the Albany Times Union wrote about the tensions in residential neighborhoods surrounding the University at Albany, where “back to school means Keystone Light, puking and bleary-eyed fights. “

The Wall Street Journal covered the issue of alcohol sales in college stadiums early this week. Check out David Kesmodel and Jeff Opdyke‘s piece to learn about the tension some cities are encountering while trying to maintain revenues and encourage responsible drinking.

Sam Sessa, a nightlife reporter for the Baltimore Sun and a contributor to the paper’s “Midnight Sun” blog, offered his lighthearted take on Maryland’s various alcohol laws, which he characterized as “confusing.”

In other news…

A team of researchers at the University of Mississippi and Louisiana State University confirmed that binge drinking weakens the body’s short-term immune response in a new study that will be published in the journal BMC Immunology. Check out Medical News Today for the details.

In an update on legislation that was proposed earlier this year, California lawmakers have postponed their efforts to pass a bill requiring all alcohol sales to be routed through live cashiers. The lawmakers believed that self-checkout lines in supermarkets offered underage drinkers easier access to alcohol. Commentary by John McCardell: “21 Doesn’t Work”

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

This morning, [CR] President and Founder John McCardell published a commentary on called “Drinking Age of 21 Doesn’t Work.” After laying the groundwork for a reconsideration of Legal Age 21, he concluded,

“Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young adults. We can either try to change the reality — which has been our principal focus since 1984, by imposing Prohibition on young adults 18 to 20 — or we can create the safest possible environment for the reality.

A drinking age minimum of 21 has not changed the reality. It’s time to try something different. It’s not 1984 anymore.”

Read the whole thing at and leave us your feedback in the comments section.

Wall Street Journal on Alcohol Sales in College Stadiums

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Over the weekend, Jeff Opdyke and David Kesmodel of the Wall Street Journal wrote about an issue that has been on the minds of college administrators as the the fall sports season gets underway: alcohol sales in stadiums that host university sports. Some cities are feeling the pinch of difficult economic times, and are using alcohol sales during college football games to boost revenue. Meanwhile, certain schools (such as the University of Wisconsin) have severed their relationships with alcohol advertisers during sports broadcasts. According to the Journal‘s review of these policies,

“Overall, about three dozen of the roughly 120 largest NCAA Division 1 schools allow beer sales inside their stadiums, though many limit sales to luxury suites, lounges or club-seating areas. In other cases, beer is available stadium-wide because a facility is owned by the city, the state or a local sports authority, and that body, not the school, establishes the alcohol policy. Most colleges, already struggling with underage drinking on campus, frown on beer sales in their stadiums.”

Check out their article to get a sense of this debate, and leave a note in the comments if you’d like to weigh in with your thoughts on the best approach to this issue. Do you think a ban on alcohol sales inside a college stadium could help to curb dangerous drinking?

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Late this week, researchers at the University of Minnesota announced the results of a new study which serves as more evidence that Legal Age 21 isn’t doing much to curb dangerous alcohol consumption. The research team surveyed students on 18 of the heaviest-drinking college campuses across the country, and found little improvement over a twelve-year period. According to the study, which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs, the percentage of students who said they frequently binged actually increased from 1993 to 2005. Lead researcher Toben Nelson said, “Clearly the work is not over, because what has been done so far has not put a dent in the problem.” Despite the increased attention and resources exhausted while trying to improve this culture over the course of those twelve years, there’s little to show for these efforts. Perhaps it’s time to consider some new alternatives to a law that hasn’t had a positive impact?

Stories this week:

In case you missed Roanoke Times editor Matt Chittum’s state-wide survey of alcohol policies on Virginia college campuses, you can find those results at the TimesDataBlog.

Following up on last week’s article for parents about the differences between on-campus and off-campus alcohol policies, Suzanne Mims of the DC Examiner Online wrote about the Amethyst Initiative and the colleges in the DC metro area that have signed on.

Ben Byrnes, a reporter with The Rotunda at Longwood University, expressed his displeasure with certain types of abstinence-based alcohol education programs in a mid-week article about the Amethyst Initiative. He wrote that certain campaigns place alcohol “into the large category of drugs that people can become addicted to and the repercussions of that addiction,” but don’t address “how to help solve the problem of excessive drinking and how colleges and universities can alleviate some of those problems.”

The editors of The Volante, the student newspaper at the University of South Dakota, wrote that they’re in favor of exploring alternatives to Legal Age 21 in their Tuesday editorial. New policies, they argued, would offer “a chance to stop throwing the book at the under-21 crowd and allowing them to be the voting, draft-eligible adults that they are.”

In other news…

The Massachusetts legislature is considering legislation that would ban all alcohol advertising on state property, including public transit. According to the Associated Press, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is one of only two public transit systems nationwide that explicitly allows alcohol advertising. What are your thoughts on this proposal?

The Gordie Foundation has announced the date for its second-annual National GORDIEday, which will take place on college campuses across the country on September 24th. Read the announcement to learn more about how you can get involved.

If you saw an important story that we missed, leave us a link in the comments.

U of SD Volante: Revisiting the Drinking Age

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

South Dakota state representative Tim Rounds’ proposal to adjust the drinking age in licensed establishments has already received significant coverage this summer, and now that students are going back to school, some campus newspapers are weighing in on the issue. This week, the editorial board of The Volante at the University of South Dakota offered its support for a debate about the drinking age. They wrote that an open conversation about the law “presents the opportunity for this debate to be more than just a regurgitation of what we’ve already heard. It’s an opportunity to discuss legitimate, responsible ways to curb binge drinking and also to focus on the more immediate and dangerous threats like drunk driving.”

What do you think of the Volante‘s position on this proposal? Let us know in the comments.

Roanoke Times: Mapping Alcohol Policies at VA Colleges

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Over the weekend, Matt Chittum and a team of staff members at the Roanoke Times rolled out the early results of a survey sent to a large group of Virginia colleges to take stock of their campus alcohol policies and positions on the Amethyst Initiative. Chittum wrote in his initial analysis of the survey results that the Times‘ editors plan to expand the survey to be an even more comprehensive resource:

“Going forward, we’ll add more information and analysis from the results, including a look at alcohol policies for student organizations like fraternities and sororities, and an analysis of the numbers of alcohol violations handled by the school’s own disciplinary systems.”

Check out the interactive map here, and keep an eye on the Times‘ “Under 21” series for updates.