U.S. College Presidents Call for Debate on Lowering the Drinking Age
With campus binge drinking on the rise, advocates on opposing sides of this issue are using health and safety study data to support their positions. Last July, the non-profit organization Choose Responsibly launched the Amethyst Initiative, a coalition of Unites State college presidents who want to start a serious debate about lowering the drinking age in an effort to curb binge drinking on campus. Citing the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the group argues that the raising of the national legal drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1984 has had no effect on preventing alcohol use in this age group. In this case, the law is fighting an uphill battle; Durkheim’s theories on social influence tell us that behavior is acceptable if it is approved by one’s peer group. Additionally, the coalition believes that the prohibition actually encourages dangerous binge drinking that sometimes results in death. Legislators, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and U.S. highway safely officials oppose this move, citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies that show traffic deaths due to alcohol have decreased during this period. Opponents also cite a New Zealand study that shows traffic deaths rose in the period immediately after the country lowered its drinking age.