“Children” will be children

 We commend Dale Pratt-Wilson for working to curb “underage” drinking. She has devoted her career to keeping alcohol out of the hands of our nation’s youth, and has collaborated with organizations such as Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free in order to curb drinking amongst children aged 9 to 15. We applaud this mission. However,  in today’s The Daily Tar Heel, Ms. Pratt-Wilson unabashedly confuses young adults with children — infantalizing those who, in every other respect, are adults.

The opinion piece cites the work of H. Scott Swartzwelder, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University and member of the Board of Trustees of Choose Responsibility. Swartzwelder proves that the adolescent brain is not fully developed until age 25; however, the researcher himself agrees that 21 is not a magical number. Rather, Legal Age 21 has forced drinking underground and led to excessive, dangerous, and lethal drinking. It has created a culture of pregaming and drinking games, where drunkenness is the goal and alcohol consumption is forced out of safe, communal spaces and into dorm rooms, off-campus houses, and underground locales.

A quick glance at Europe disregards the markedly different historical drinking cultures of its northern and souther countries. History and an extensive body of cross cultural research would suggest that cultural attitudes towards alcohol use play a far more influential role than minimum age in these countries, which have more drinking occasions per month, but boast fewer dangerous, intoxication occasions.

Enforcement is not the answer. For every 1,000 incidences of underage alcohol consumption, only two result in arrest or citation. The cost of  “improved enforcement resources” is exponential and will further drive drinking underground. The fact is, the majority of college-aged students drink — in unsafe environments without adequate education or guidance. Infantile behavior is a product of infantalization. Adults will act like adults when the law is synchronized with reality.

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