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18 Or 21 Forum

January 21, 2009 by Josh Morgan

The numerical difference between an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old is just three years. Yet, the ages remain a world apart primarily because a 21 year old can legally drink, and an 18-year-old cannot.
The debate regarding the legal drinking age in the United States recently resurfaced, and on Jan. 15, discussion of the topic found a venue in Cheshire.
The Cheshire Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking sponsored the event and four panelists shared differing opinions regarding the magic number for the legal drinking age. The panelists ranged in age and expertise, from Sabrina S., a 17-year-old Cheshire High School student to Cheshire police officer Mark Ecke. Filling out the panel were Saint Joseph College Dean of Students Dr. Cheryl Barnard and 19-year-old college student Jason Lydell. The forum was informal, and with about a dozen members of the public attending, the panelists had plenty of questions and comments to which to respond.
Sabrina S. said she initially was leaning towards being in favor of lowering the drinking age, but “the more I learned, I changed my mind.”
At parties, I don’t need to drink to have fun, but some other kids want to drink,” she said. “Lowering the drinking age would say it’s okay to get drunk.”
Lydell, gave a succinct statement on his belief of why the drinking age should be lowered. He explained that if he could be drafted and go to war to fight terrorism, he should be able to legally drink.
“If I can be trained to kill, and I’m viewed as mature enough to kill, then I think I should be old enough to go to a pub and have a drink,” Lydell said.
Jennifer DeWitt, executive director of the Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council, moderated the forum, stating that from what she has observed, it really comes down to personal choices or family beliefs.
“I have spent a lot of time with substance abusers and children of substance abusers,” DeWitt said. “I have heard many sides of the debate.”
The drinking age has fluctuated in this country’s history. When prohibition ended in the early 1930s, almost every state set the legal drinking age at 21. Between 1970 to 1975, 29 states began lowering the legal drinking age to 18, 19, or 20 years old, to have it coincide with other age-restricted activities, like voting. During that time, studies indicated the lower drinking age was resulting in more motor vehicle accidents and deaths. As a result, some states increased the drinking age back to 21, and in 1984, the federal government enacted the Uniform Drinking Age Act, which forced states to have a legal drinking age of 21 or risk losing federal transportation funding.
More recently, a group of 120 college and university presidents signed the Amethyst Initiative, which states that it’s time to rethink the legal drinking age.
“I don’t know if I can tell you what the right age is,” Barnard said, “but I can tell you what I’ve seen.”
Barnard explained that in her 20-year career in higher education, she has seen student deaths that were alcohol related. She added that she has personally stopped parents from dropping off beer or liquor to their underage children, and she said she believed it was the “responsibility of parents to discuss the implications with your child if they choose to drink.”
“You can’t tell your kids not to drink, then turn around and tell them to call you if they are drunk and need a ride home, and there will be no consequences,” Barnard said. “If you haven’t talked to your kids about drinking, you should.”
Mark Ecke, a Cheshire police officer and DARE teacher, was adamant in his belief that the drinking age should remain at 21. He said there is an underage drinking problem and the age of first sip is already 13 years old, and he wondered if the first sip would occur at an even younger age.
“I am very much in favor of keeping the drinking age at 21,” Ecke said. “If we lower the age, when does that first sip happen?”
An audience member, who said she grew up in Montreal, explained that with the legal drinking age of 18, she witnessed 13- and 14-year-olds in bars. She said the police would remove the younger groups from the bars, but left 16- and 17-year-olds alone. She was concerned that lowering the drinking age or condoning it would increase the possibility for alcohol addiction later in life.
After the forum ended, a woman named Ann said the discussion was good because “there wasn’t one side of an issue with people trying to convince me on their stance.” Ann said that the drinking age was not the real concern; rather the issue is about parents being able to teach their children about making responsible decisions.
“I wish more people were here. The people that were here were the concerned and interested parents,” Ann said. “That’s not the audience that needs to be educated.”
For more information on the Coalition, visit the Web at www.cheshirecsud.org.

Comments

18 or 21

February 28, 2010 by Michelle317, 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 118

I agree with the previous poster, alcohol needs to be introduced to kids much earlier than it is. I am not saying you serve it to your kids like water, but telling them what can happen when toomuch is consumed needs to be addressed. I also agree that we need to demystify it. We can't have them learning this on the street from their friends.

If you consume alchol in your home personally you have a responsibility to explain it to your children. Many European families serve beer and wine to their kids at 15 and 16. Moderation is the key here. Immigrant families to the US regularly served their kids small glasses of wine. I have personally seen that by doing this in the family home, those kids do not feel like they are drinking the "forbidden fruit" at 18. They have learned alochol is not to be obver consumed, and they don't feel the need to keep drinking to impress their friends.

In the 70's the cry was if kids could fight for their county at 18, they should be able to vote and drink alochol too. This is something to think about. People need to educate their kids about alcohol. There are entirely too many kids underage getting arrested for drinking, as well as their parents. It is an epidemic.

AGE

February 28, 2010 by chesha, 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 117

whats the best way to get someone to do something that you dont want them to do? Tell them they CANT do it. Especially seventeen and eighteen year old kids. Make a big deal of it, and every kid will prove that they CAN and WILL drink. Look at other countries, and maybe the answer is right there for everyone to see. Kids are always going to party. there is no right answer. It's not right for parents to allow other kids to break the law and drink in their house, but at the same time they are concerned for their safety. I give up.

18 or 21 forum

December 30, 2009 by Daddio, 4 years 29 weeks ago
Comment: 109

While people can point to many studies and statistics that show that lower the drinking age leads to more traffic fatalites etc, I think that we are overlooking a very important point in the discussion.. That is: Is it constitutional to restrict adults aged 18 - 20 from being able to consume alcohol? In my opinion it is not. People over 18 years of age can get married without parental consent, they can be drafted, they can vote and they can be punished for their crimes in adult prisons. So as a society we need to ask ourselves do we have two classes of adulthood? I cannot see how in good conscience we can denegrate people between the ages of 18 and 21 to a sub-adult status. You are either an adult in a legal sence or you are not. There is no law governing alcohol consumption for people over 21. You do not need a license go out an buy beer or wine. If we think that it is ok for government to restrict the activities of 18 - 20 yr olds in this area, what is preventing the government from resticting anyone else from any activity that the government deems unsavory. What is the difference between separating out 18 - 20 yr olds from the group we call adults and separating out Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans from that same group. There would be rioting in the streets if laws were enacted restricting certain the activities of certain ethic groups. What if the goverment enacted laws restricting what types of activities we could do in the privacy of our own homes. People would be up in arms and the ACLU would be busy for the next 20 years filing lawsuit after lawsuit.

I understand that there is a problem with teenage drinking in this country. Much of that problem, in my opinion, is due to a lack of education. We have created a mystique about alcohol consumption for young teens. It is the taboo forbidden fruit that draws teens to experiment with alcohol. It is also readily available in almost every home. Teens need to be educated by their parents about alcohol and take away that air of mystic that surounds drinking. Additionally, we should stiffen the penalties for bars, liquor stores or adults who give liquor to minors. Parents however, should be allowed to give their children small amounts of alcohol in order to educate them about it.

Yes underage drinking is a problem and yes there is no easy solution, but trouncing on the rights of ADULTS between the ages of 18 and 20 years old is not the appropriate solution.

Drinking Alcohol is a very serious matter.

November 30, 2009 by burban (not verified), 4 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 98

It is not a matter of choice or family beliefs. Adults who allow or raise their children with alcohol consumption are doing an illegal act. Just the same as allowing your teen to smoke. Some parents go as far as buying cigarettes for their teenager because the teen can't. Both are detrimental to the health. It's seems that the cigarette industry and adults who smoke have been targeted, selected out and have been ordered to pay for choice by the state of CT. So, why would anyone even consider lowing the drinking or smokingn age? We do not have a draft, although the U.S. is fighting terrorism, I do not believe a Declaration of War has been declared. The U.S ought too declare WWIII on terrorism, especially Islamic Muslem terrorist on on home land or over seas. Science has proven that the brain is not fully matured to reaason until age 25, so why even try to change it, unless it's just to get teenagers into the discussion to educate. A teenager can be 19 years old and given alcohol by a friend of a household then the parent of that household ought to be arrested, but wasn't because they say they knew nothing about it or that the drunken teen stole it from them. When the parent of the sicken teen picks up her son or daughter from that household and has to bring their teen to the hospital to find out if it's just alchol or something else that caused sickness, calls the household and Cheshire police and no one is arrested or held responsible except the drunken teen, something is wrong with law enforcement here!

I don't understand why the

November 28, 2009 by reggis, 4 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 97

I don't understand why the legal drinking age is a controversial debate specially now that we have access the all kinds of statistics that practically put the answer right in front of us. The legal drinking age should be as high as possible, even a 21 years old isn't mature enough to think wisely about drinking habits on wheels, what can we expect from those that just turned 18?
Reggis, alcohol treatment center counselor

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