Archive for March, 2012

From the Archives: It’s More than Dying for Your Country

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The right to fight for your country, to enlist, serve, and potentially die, is an oft-cited justification for an 18 year-old drinking age. “If you are old enough to die for your country,” so the maxim goes, “then you are old enough to sit down and buy a beer.” It’s a powerful argument, and a common one at that. But it is only a part of something far greater that is often over-looked when used to rationalize an 18 year-old drinking age argument. There is great injustice in the fact that you can die for a country against your will (to be drafted) that doesn’t grant you with the fullest privileges of adulthood. But in some way I think it means more that you can voluntarily join the military and risk your life, yet still be denied a mug of beer.

It’s about justice. For better or worse, the United States has determined that at age 18 you become an adult. By the widest of definitions, this means that you are now legally responsible for your actions. You can buy and smoke cigarettes even though you know that, with time, they’ll probably give you lung cancer. You may even purchase property, strike binding legal contracts, or go into debt. But most importantly (for the sake of this argument), is the fact that, at 18, you can vote and hold office. 18 is the age of majority, the age at which one finally becomes part of the ruling faction, the democracy’s people. Sure, you can die for your country and not be allowed to buy a beer, and that is a travesty, but it is the over-arching disenfranchisement of responsibility for those who are in all respects legally responsible that is abhorrent.

Critics are quick to point out that 18 is not an Age of Majority, but one age amongst many that together mark the gradual path to adulthood. This argument notes that young adults cannot drink until 21, rent cars until 25, run for the U.S. Senate until they are 30, and run for President until 35. This is evidence of a graduated adulthood. But this argument is simply not sound. First and foremost, rental car companies are not legally kept from renting cars to those under 25, it is a decision made by insurance companies. In fact, some rental companies do rent to those under 25, and higher rates compensate for the potential liability. In short, 25 is not an age of increased adultness.

Neither is 30. Article II Section 3 of the US Constitution mandates that: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years.” But strangely enough this clause has not preemptively kept individuals from running for Senate. Indeed, the man who John F. Kennedy called one of the 5 best senators in the history of the Republic, Henry Clay, was first elected to the Senate at age 28. While no one has yet to challenge the legitimacy of the Presidential Age Requirement, it is clear that the Constitutional age requirements are something quite different than graduated adulthood markers. As the lone mentions of age in all of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the are requirements are more appropriately seen as exceptions to full adulthood, rather than benchmarks of adulthood.

So as it stands now when you turn 18 you are legal to engage in all things other adults do except drink alcohol and run for President. It’s bizarre but accurate. Somewhere along the line, our society failed to remember that individuals, by becoming an adult, become responsible for their actions. Whether you are 18, 19, 20, 38, 39, or 40, you are an adult, and when you drink and drive, just as when you smoke in public areas or ignore traffic laws, you are responsible . By maintaining a drinking age different than 18, our society sends a signal that drinking and driving (the original target of the 21 MLDA) is worse in consequence for young adults than it is for older adults. This opens up a Pandora’s box when it comes to expanding the logic against real and perceived public health threats. Targeting groups by age beyond some measure of adulthood validates the fears raised in the Federalist Papers that a democratic system of government offers too little protection for the rights of minority factions against the will of the masses. Above and beyond its deleterious consequences, the 21 year-old drinking age threatens the integrity of egalitarianism in an otherwise representative democracy. 18 year-old drinking age is an act of justice.

A Police Officer Speaks Up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

University police officers often awkwardly hover between their knowledge of campus alcohol consumption and their compulsion to enforce the law. This paradox silences many people that might otherwise reveal salient information on the effectiveness of our society’s current approach to alcohol.

Timothy Faughnan, Binghampton University’s police chief, broke this silence to the school’s newspaper in an article about his 30 years as a university police officer published today. Faughnan concedes that he cannot easily take a firm stand on MLDA21, but he also notes the shift in campus climate after the drinking age was raised,

What the change in drinking age did on this campus and a lot of campuses is that it sent a lot of the alcohol consumption deeper underground or off campus, where the University really doesn’t have an ability to control or monitor it while it is taking place. We as a university lost something. We lost a measure of control when the drinking age changed. [Drinking] doesn’t occur in our presence anymore.

Chief Faughnan’s willingness to speak candidly on the subject of college drinking empowers the conversation about the effectiveness of MLDA21 and the health and safety of college students.



Frustrated at Sex, Flies turn to Drink

Friday, March 16th, 2012

If you’ve visited a college bar on a Friday evening, you may have seen a man drowning his sorrows after being rejected by one of his fellow co-eds. A recent study on fruit flies the University of San Francisco proves that ordering another beer may be more than a social norm.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the study,

Male fruit flies, rejected in their attempts to mate, turn to alcohol-soaked food, researchers reported today in the journal Science. Scientists think the discovery, along with evidence that the behavior seems to be driven by a small molecule in the brain, may open a window onto the self-destructive actions of alcoholics and drug addicts.

If the brain is triggered to prefer alcohol in tense situations, this is all the more reason why parents and other responsible adults need to have the opportunity to help young people learn how to handle alcohol responsibly.

Kansas may repeal happy hour ban

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Later this year, Kansas will may its departure from a group of 24 states that currently prohibit happy hours. The afterwork period famous for discounted drinks was banned in Kansas 26 years ago. In the meantime, bars have found clever ways of circumventing the law, including hosting “happy days” where drinks are served at discounted prices throughout the day instead of only in the evening. Liz Goodwin writes,

[Until the law passes], clever barkeeps will continue adapting to the prohibition on temporary drink discounts by discounting their drinks all day long.

Like MLDA 21, Kansas’s ban on happy hours did not prevent bar patrons from drinking.

Findings from a Canadian study showed that discounted alcohol at happy hours did not significantly alter the amount of alcohol patrons consumed. The Alcoholic Beverage Institute believes that “an outright ban of happy hours is an overreach: in efforts to encourage moderate, responsible drinking. There is also hope that altering this law will prevent Kansas residents from driving to Missouri, where laws are far less strict.




UVA Trial Reveals “Epidemic Levels” of Campus Drinking

Friday, March 9th, 2012

We’ve dedicated several posts in the last month to the tragic death of Yeardley Love and the subsequent trial of George Huguely, and we certainly don’t want to repeat ourselves.

However, a recent Washington Post article entitled “Huguely trial highlights alcohol abuse at colleges, universities” could not go unposted. The article notes that binge drinking is more prevalent on college campuses than ever.

An NIAAA report released in 2009 shows that alcohol-related deaths of people ages 18 to 24 were up 14 percent to 1,825 in 2005, compared with roughly 1,605 in 1998.

Based on this statistic, Huguely’s behavior was extreme, but his drinking was not extraordinary. His conviction sheds light on today’s college  culture and proves that dangerous drinking cannot be ignored any longer.

Did you know? Wet or Dry

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Cultures can be characterized as either “wet” or “dry”. “Wet” cultures- those of southern Europe, for example- have high per capita consumption of alcohol but few legal restrictions, and fewer drunken driving fatalities. In “wet” cultures, individuals drink frequently but rarely with the intention of becoming intoxicated. “Dry” cultures- those of northern Europe, Scandinavia, and the United States, for example- have low per capita consumption of alcohol. Drinking is infrequent but, when it does occur, it is very heavy. “Dry” cultures have more alcohol related violence and drunken driving fatalities.

Teen movies and MLDA 21 have something in common

Monday, March 5th, 2012

The silver screen and the current legal drinking age have something in common. A recent European study claims many popular teenage films celebrate dangerous drinking.

The correlation between binge drinking and teen movies was drawn in a European study based on films released between 2004 and 2009. MedPage Today reports,

Across six European countries with different cultural experiences with alcohol, exposure to drinking in movies was associated with binge drinking in adolescents (P<0.001), according to Reiner Hanewinkel, PhD, of the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany, and colleagues.

Choose Responsibility recognizes the importance of developing a culture that supports responsible consumption. These films, like MLDA 21, then promote a culture that does not appreciate alcohol and its responsible use.

[CR] Week in Review: College

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

We hope all of our readers were left unaffected by the tornadoes that moved through the Southeast yesterday. [CR] sends our thoughts to those who were put in harms way.

As you settle in and enjoy your weekend, be sure to check out these articles pertaining to college drinking.

Colleges are working to curtail binge drinking during spring break, which is often a week where heavy drinking is prevalent. Santa Fe College will host a pre-spring break event to address safe behavior. Read about it here.

Energy drinks and alcohol are popular among college students because of the quick buzz they offer. However, the drinks can be toxic, as reported here.

And finally, Indiana college students help push a Good Samaritan bill through the Indiana state legislature. The bill enables people to call for help in a situation where alcohol is involved (or someone is intoxicated) without the facing criminal charges. Several other states have passed similar bills, which encourage students to make alcohol harm reduction their first priority. Read the full article here.

Have a great rest of your weekend, and stay safe!

Energy Drinks+Alcohol=Toxic Combination

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Students seeking the perfect buzz now combine energy drinks with alcohol. Combining uppers and downers is a quick way to get drunk, but the combination can prove to be toxic. Oftentimes, these drinks are consumed with only one objective in mind: bingeing. The Sonoma State Star recently published an article on the danger of these “bomb drinks”, which can be found here.

The acceptance of these cocktails reflects a common mindset among college drinking. Instead of enjoying alcohol responsibly, students consume it quickly to snag the quickest buzz. Responsibility doesn’t always ensue.

Colleges seek to curb spring break bingeing

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Santa Fe College will host a safe spring break event before sending students off in March. The event seeks to discourage binge drinking through incentives for students. Check back after Santa Fe’s break for an update on the success of this endeavor. Read the full article here.