Archive for the '[CR] News' Category

[CR] and the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators held their annual convention this past week in Chicago, and MLDA 21 was a major topic of discussion.  Our very own John McCardell was there to argue towards a lower drinking age, meeting opposition from the American Medical Association and others.  The convention has received a lot of coverage, and we encourage you to check out Fox News and ABC News links for some video clips and more information about the drinking age discussion.


Also, to see a more in-depth interview with John McCardell, and to hear more about [CR]’s position on the drinking age, take a look at this clip from Chicago Tonight on WTTW11, PBS Chicago.

“Should the Drinking Age be Lowered?” Our response

Friday, June 6th, 2008

We are pleased by the coverage the drinking age received in this week’s issue of Time (“Should the Drinking Age be Lowered?,” June 16, 2008), but feel that there is more to be said about the several points John Cloud makes to defend his conclusion that challenging the 21 year-old drinking age is a misguided endeavor

• “First of all, while binge drinking is a serious problem, the data do not show that it has gotten worse since states raised their drinking ages” Well, frankly, that depends on where you’re looking. According to the CDC, 18-20 year-olds experienced the steepest increase in binge drinking rates—56%–between 1993 and 2001. Amongst the entire population of underage drinkers (12-20 year-olds, as according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), overall rates of binge drinking increased from 15.2% to 18.9% between 1991 and 2003. During the same time period, there was a steady decline in the prevalence of alcohol consumption among 12-20 year-olds. While fewer young people are drinking, those who choose to drink are drinking more, and drinking more recklessly. Neither by these indications, nor those Mr. Cloud presents in his essay has the 21 year-old drinking age and the current approach to educating young people about responsible alcohol use had the intended effect of reducing both the use and misuse of alcohol among adolescents and young adults.
• “No researchers have documented an increase in the percentage of alcohol-poisoning deaths among college students, although the raw number has probably increased with the growing college population.” In fact, several well-regarded, widely cited studies have looked at the rate of non-traffic, alcohol related injury deaths among young adults. Their findings? Between 1998 and 2001, these deaths increased from 991 to 1151—a rise of 16%, with the indication of a continued upward trend at a rate outpacing the size of the population. An increasing number of lives are being lost to alcohol off the highways, and surely these lives deserve as much consideration in this argument as those lost on the highways.
• “Choose Responsibility supporters have also claimed that other countries that haven’t raised their drinking ages — including Canada and the United Kingdom — saw their drunk-driving fatalities drop even faster than in the U.S. But that’s simply not true.” Canada, which is for many reasons the most comparable nation to the United States in terms of driving habits and cultural tendencies, experienced a 28% decline in alcohol related traffic fatalities between 1982 and 1992. In this same time period, which represents the most substantive decline in traffic fatalities since data was first gathered, the United States experienced a 26% decline. Though it varies by province, the drinking age across Canada is either 18 or 19 and remained as such throughout the time period in question. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted that where youth drinking and driving is concerned, Canadian reductions followed a virtually identical pattern to the United States. Their conclusion? “This means that the changes [in youth drinking and driving rates in the US and Canada] must have resulted from some combination of the difficult-to-assess educational and motivational programs and from other factors outside of traffic safety. This conclusion suggests that a substantial portion of the reduction in the United States also resulted from these same causes”

To clarify in a more general sense, Choose Responsibility believes foremost that the 21 year-old drinking age is a policy whose intended and unintended consequences must be considered side by side, and that cause and effect relationships drawn between it and measurements of a its success—namely the decline in alcohol related traffic fatalities seen throughout the 1980s and early 1990s—must be extended to the many other areas of our society that this law has affected. To ignore the reality that excessive, reckless alcohol use among young people has either remained impervious to change or increased in the past decade is to minimize the very real threat that such behaviors pose to all Americans, regardless of their age.

We do not believe, as Mr. Cloud suggests, that lowering the drinking age would immediately address the pervasive binge drinking culture endemic to young people in America. We do believe that alcohol education is sorely lacking in its ability to prepare young people for the realities they will face in adult life, which for all will involve decisions about the role of alcohol. We do believe that there are better ways to ensure young people have the ability to make responsible decisions about alcohol use than our current prohibitionist tack. Given this, we ultimately believe that the time has come for new voices and fresh ideas in the debate over the legal drinking age—that much, Mr. Cloud has correct.

Educational leaders discuss the drinking age

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

John McCardell and Jeff Levy, member of the MADD Board of Directors, had essays featured in the May/June issue of Trusteeship magazine.  Trusteeship is distributed to members of governing boards at colleges and universities around the country, and is widely read by the leaders of higher education. 

Should Congress amend the National Minimum Drinking Age Act?

John McCardell’s perspective

Jeff Levy’s perspective

What do you think? Tell us which argument you find more convicing.

Lightner Controversy

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

On a Fox News panel on Monday April 7, Candy Lightner, Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, shared her belief that young adults “don’t think for themselves.” Lightner used this as a justification for why the drinking age should not coincide with the age of enlistment. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have heard members of the MADD network stereotyping young adults as immature. The same argument has been put forth by several of Lightner’s colleagues, including a 19 year-old M.I.T student (who, interestingly, is considered mature enough to sit on the Board of a large national organization), as well as MADD representatives on local panels.

The moment, naturally, was captured by YouTube,  and we have provided a rough transcript below.

“…That’s exactly why the draft age is 18…because these kids are malleable. They’ll follow the leader. They don’t think for themselves. And they are the last ones that I want to say, here’s a gun and here’s a beer…they are not adults.”

Happy Alcohol Awareness Month

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and organizations across the nation are focusing on alcohol and its many implications for our society. Pertinently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a government agency that deals with issues related to alcohol and underage drinking, is hosting a series of 1,600 town hall-style meetings across the country this week and next. These meetings are informal get-togethers whose goal is to bring together people from various roles within a community—parents, teens, law enforcement, educators, elected officials—to discuss and raise awareness of underage drinking.

We encourage you to attend a meeting near you, and to participate in the discussion. [CR] volunteer Beau Weston attended a meeting in Danville, KY where he brought up Choose Responsibility’s concept of alcohol education and licensing. “The drinking license idea was clearly new to most people there,” said Weston, “but only one was set against it, and most were willing to give it a hearing.” Check here for a list of meetings in your state, and find one to attend in your area. Email Grace Kronenberg at [CR] if you have questions about what to say!

Head to head: John McCardell debates MADD CEO Chuck Hurley

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

March 6 was a watershed day for the drinking age debate: it marked the first time the leaders of two of the most vocal organizations on either side of the question met in public to discuss the merits and demerits of Legal Age 21. Beyond some sparring in the media in which MADD CEO Chuck Hurley has described John McCardell as “a dog with a bone,” (Boston Globe) a “dangerous gadfly” (PARADE) and Choose Responsibility as an organization representing nothing more than “off the cuff musings” (PARADE), Chuck Hurley and John McCardell have never formally debated.

We were, therefore, very excited by the invitation to join Chuck Hurley, a Dickinson College alumnus, for a debate at his alma mater. The two leaders met at Dickinson College last week in front of a full house of nearly 200 students, faculty, staff and community members to defend their perspectives on Legal Age 21. Even in a short format–Dr. McCardell and Mr. Hurley each presented for eight minutes, then were given three minutes to rebut–many of the key arguments on both sides were aired and addressed.  Questions from the audience further elucidated many of the points made on both sides.

One of Mr. Hurley’s recurring points made a play on the popular Staples “Easy Button” ad campaign.   He repeatedly described [CR] as doing nothing more than “pushing the Easy Button on underage drinking and drunk driving” and reminded the audience that there is “no such thing as an Easy Button.”  Frankly, we beg to differ, and would point to MADD’s strong lobbying for the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984 as the most unmistakable example of pressing the “Easy Button” that we could find.  The passage of that act and attendant setting of the drinking age at 21 across America was a blunt instrument that, 23 years later, continues to take undue credit for single-handedly reversing the downward trend in alcohol-related traffic fatalities while ignoring many of the its unintended consequences.  Today, with an increase in binge and extreme drinking through the 1990s and beginning of the 21st century, and more than 1,000 lives of 18-24 year-olds lost to alcohol off the highways each year, we can see clearly that Legal Age 21 was an “Easy Button” pressed all too readily.

What the current, complex situation calls for is a critical look at our nation’s alcohol policies, and the culture they have propagated over the past three decades.   Last time we checked, there isn’t an “Easy Button” to help us do that–but who knows, maybe Staples will have a special deal on one soon!

Stay tuned for video from the Dickinson debate and updates to our homepage and all-new Volunteer Center coming soon…

Happy February 20th!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Happy February 20th!  75 years ago today, Congress approved the 21st Amendment, kicking off the ratification process and bringing national prohibition to the point of no return.  Congress’ approval built upon the momentum generated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Herbert Hoover — a victory considered by many to be a mandate for repeal. After February 20, repeal steamrolled through the states at a pace faster than anyone could have envisioned.

In many ways, Legal Age 21 can be considered a latter-day prohibition — denying legal alcohol purchase and consumption to a specific group of adults who are allowed all other rights of citizenship. Indeed, historical parallels abound. Today, the excessive, reckless use of alcohol has become the norm as law forces drinking underground and out of public settings. The criminalization of ordinary behavior continues to breed disrespect for law. The unenforcability of the law, compounded with increasingly commonplace consumption, have engendered creative lawbreaking.  Off-campus parties and beer pong constitute the modern subculture equivalent of speakeasies and homemade spirits, and clearly illustrate the failure of a law — albeit one with good intentions — to bring about desired cultural change.

 Just as Americans on February 20, 1933 had repeal within reach, so can we, in 2008, affect change. Start the debate in your community. Talk to your local officials. In the words of a prominent prohibition-era poster, “Their security demands you vote REPEAL.”


(Kyvig 2000)


Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, we have our own gift for you — a collection of [CR] Gear! Thank you for your suggestions, survey responses and creativity. We are pleased to announce that these items are already flying off the shelves! Place your order now and help spread awareness of our cause. We could not ask for a better walking advertisement.

Call and Response

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

In the interest of full disclosure, we present below both the link to MADD’s press release and the text of Choose Responsibility’s response.

Science speaks for itself” (MADD press release). Indeed it does. While it is true that “almost 50 peer-reviewed studies” have “found that an increased drinking age significantly lowers alcohol-related fatalities” (MADD press release), an equal number of studies have found no relationship between the drinking age and alcohol-related fatalities (Wagenaar and Toomey, 2002).

Thus, if science is allowed to speak for itself, we must not listen selectively.

While it is true that alcohol-related traffic fatalities have declined since the age was raised to 21, the downward trend began before the law was changed, and it has remained essentially flat for the last decade (NHTSA). Meanwhile, more than 1,000 18-24 year-old lives are being lost to alcohol each year off the roadways, and this number is increasing at an alarming rate (Hingson, 1998, 2001). These lives are being put at risk in the dark corners and behind the closed doors to which Legal Age 21 have banished them.

Thus, we need to look at all the ways alcohol, and the drinking age, put lives at risk, not just at traffic fatalities. The 21 year-old drinking age has forced drinking underground. Clandestine, goal-oriented, unsupervised drinking, a consequence of Legal Age 21, is putting an increasing number of young adult lives at risk.

While it is true that “the neurotoxic effect of excessive alcohol use” (MADD press release) can affect the development of the adolescent brain, no one is advocating excessive alcohol use. Researchers involved in studies of the adolescent brain have stated that, unless the drinking age is raised to 25, when the adolescent brain is fully developed, there is nothing magical about some other age. Indeed, at least one such researcher, Professor Scott Swartzwelder of Duke University, has stated that his studies do “not mean that an 18 year-old who has a beer or two every couple of weeks is doing irreparable damage to her brain. It is the 18 year-old (or 30 year-old for that matter!) who downs five or six drinks on his way to a dance that worries me.”

Thus, we mustn’t be misled by scare tactics. We must listen carefully to what scientists are saying. Most of the rest of the world, where the age is lower than 21, exhibits no evidence of brain impairment. Moderate, responsible use of alcohol poses little neurological risk. Excessive use of alcohol, at any age, may be health- or life-threatening. Clandestine drinking, fostered by Legal Age 21, raises that threat.

Safe Drinking Venues

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

As our nation’s colleges and universities continue to wrestle with campus alcohol policy — either strictly enforcing Legal Age 21 or turning a blind eye (both options leading to dangerous, underground, and off-campus drinking) — it is refreshing to see productive steps being taken to produce a safer drinking climate on-campus. We applaud the University of Vermont’s efforts to create a campus pub, which will generate an environment where alcohol accompanies, rather than determines, the activity. While the majority of UVM’s students still fall below the age of 21 and would not be served liquor in such a venue, the university has nevertheless committed itself to cultivating a more sensible campus attitude towards alcohol.

Ideally, such a venue would accommodate all college students above the age of eighteen, as everyone would benefit from access to a space defined by moderate and sensible drinking. We therefore strongly disagree with the with the editorial comment made by the Burlington Free Press:

Lowering the drinking age to 18 is not the answer because in part it would make alcohol more easily accessible to high schoolers and because of the drinking-and-driving issue.

We are firmly committed to an 18-year old drinking age that exists within a greater program of cultural and educational change. In lowering the drinking age, our intent is not to increase the prevalence of alcohol in the lives of those below the age of majority. Widely-respected laws galvanize citizens to action, breed communal enforcement, and justify more severe penalties for individuals who choose to violate them. If we agree that 18-year old adults have the right to consume alcohol in a safe setting, then we can create necessary safeguards to prevent the transfer of alcohol to their younger peers.