Saturday, March 01, 2008
The National Age Minimum for Alcohol Threatened?
A bill is progressing in the Vermont Senate that would call for an examination of lowering the state's drinking age. Unless the feds alter their own legislation, any state that transgresses federal will by instituting a drinking age below 21 will pay -- to the tune of 10 percent of the state's share of federal highway funds. Nevertheless, there is revolt brewing in various state legislatures.
Vermont is the home of Middlebury College, whose former president has been an advocate for a lower minimum drinking age. He now directs Choose Responsibility, a nonprofit organization devoted to the cause. Here is part of the Waiver proposal from Choose Responsibility:
Choose Responsibility believes federal legislation should not penalize states who choose to participate in a pilot alcohol education program based on a minimum drinking age of 18. Thus, it is our belief that:Vice Squad supports the end of the federal mandate on the minimum drinking age, though any transition period to a lower age could be tricky. Beyond Choose Responsibility's education and licensing suggestions, higher alcohol excise taxes could be used as a supplementary method to help limit teen drinking when a state abolishes its prohibition on 18 to 20-year-old drinking. (Vice Squad supports higher alcohol taxes generally, but another possibility might be to have an age-specific tax, where 18-20 year olds face higher taxes.) Also, the drinking age could be staggered, such that 19 and 20 year olds, for instance, could be licensed to purchase wine and beer, but not spirits.
- States that present a plan for educating and licensing young adults that can maintain low levels of fatalities while lowering the drinking age ought to be granted a waiver of the 10% reduction penalty for a minimum of five years.
- States should create a mechanism to collect relevant data required to monitor the effects of the change in law.
- State should submit these statistics to Congress (or its designate), along with an analysis of the effects of the waiver from its inception, and may or may not request either an extension of he waiver.
- Individual state proposals must include the guidelines for eligibility and suspension of licenses proposed in the model program.
New Zealand lowered its drinking age from 20 to 18 in 1999. Though there have been reports of increases in some types of alcohol-related harms, efforts to re-raise the age have not garnered sufficient political support.