Binge drinking petition aims to save student lives

September 5, 2008 — by Alex Sclavos

157 deaths for people ages 18-23 in six years. This statistic, as reported by the New York Times, shows the grim reality of binge drinking in America. College students here often find that while alcohol is a part of school culture and surrounds them from their freshman year on, national laws prevent them from drinking until they are 21. This often results in teens drinking far more to excess, leading to problems from drunken driving to alcohol poisoning.

In contrast, teenagers in Europe are allowed to experience their first taste of alcohol alongside their parents, either at family dinners or restaurants as drinking ages in Europe are usually 16 or 18 and are rarely enforced within the family. This more relaxed approach appears to be working: The concept of teens secretly drinking or binge drinking to get drunk is foreign to most European youth.

It is this different approach, according to the Times, that 123 college presidents across the nation appear to be considering as they appeal via petition for a decrease in the legal drinking age. By allowing students to drink at 18, college officials hope to lower the use of fake ID cards and intensity surrounding binge drinking at many universities. They hope students will enter college with a healthier view of alcohol and a better knowledge of their own limits. They believe that this will stop students from viewing drinking as a forbidden pleasure; instead, it will simply become a normal but controlled part of college life.

Many are in support of this controversial move. The current War on Terror throws into light a paradox of American government: Despite the fact that they may fight for their country, adults under the age of 21 are still not allowed to drink. Other than drinking turning 18 means entering adulthood.

Some argue that a lower drinking age will cause an increase in the percent of 18-20-year-olds who drink because it is no longer illegal; however, supporters of the petition counter by saying that negative is far outweighed by the fact that teenagers will drink less alcohol on average.

Since the age 21 drinking limit has been a failure, the U.S. government should consider lowering the drinking age because the hype around underage drinking would be dissolved, thus creating a more responsible society of teens¬—and perhaps fewer tragic deaths.