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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No cause to change drinking laws

America has a lot of things going for it. Where the legal drinking age is concerned, however, its citizens have truly drawn the shortest straw (discounting the countries where drinking is illegal altogether). From the vast majority of places where one is able to purchase liquor from the age of 18, to those that have tried to make 19th birthdays special (I’m looking at you, Canada) as well as the many European countries where the legal drinking age is little more than a formality, Americans are largely alone in their inability to freely consume alcohol until they are out of their teens.

This inability to purchase alcohol and devour it without fear of punishment is a complaint I hear with some regularity. And yet, as I flick through the Daily Wildcat, I am almost invariably met with at least one report every day of intoxication in the Police Beat, most commonly involving minors.

After seeing “”Supersize Me,”” I understand that this is a country of extremes, but I nonetheless fail to understand how the police come across so many plastered teenagers. I hadn’t even heard of the term ‘MIP’ prior to my arrival in the States, illustrating how infrequently minors residing in other countries, by comparison, get themselves into situations where police intervention is required. Not only is alcohol being obtained illegally, it is also being consumed in quantities that are rendering its consumers completely incapacitated.

This is not the way to encourage the government to lower the drinking age.

It is not that Australians under the age of 21 (and many of us over the age of 21, I’m afraid) aren’t guilty of the rampant abuse of alcohol, but it certainly seems we make more of an effort to prevent our sneaky sips in pre-legal age from getting us into trouble. I have heard far more stories of police involvement with underage drinking in the month I have been in this country than I did at any time during my teenage years in Australia.

Regardless of the differing levels of excess, Australians have the good fortune of being able to drink from the age of 18 and thus are not in the position of having to convince our government that we can handle alcohol as well as the wiser souls a few years older than us.

As anyone who has had to win their parents’ trust to be allowed to have their boyfriend over or attend unsupervised parties can attest, misbehaving is the least effective way to convince anyone that you should be granted more liberty. How have so many apparently missed this lesson?

The Amethyst Initiative was launched last year with the aim of lowering the drinking age and finding more effective ways to address the problem of binge drinking among young people. To date, 135 college presidents have pledged support to the campaign, and yet there has still been no view of reform. Many other groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Medical Association, have expressed concerns that lowering the drinking age would only serve to better facilitate the behavior under-21s are currently engaging in. And given the apparent inability of many under-agers to enjoy alcohol responsibly, why wouldn’t they be concerned? Why wouldn’t they think that enabling unlimited access to alcohol from the age of 18 would only increase the number of teenagers consuming it irresponsibly?

Ultimately, I am on the side of the many of you who think the current drinking age is ridiculously high. I do sympathize; there were many occasions during my visit to the United States a couple of years ago where I had to miss out on things because I wasn’t conceived until 1987. But it’s also easy to see how the ready misuse of alcohol that occurs here does not provide a compelling reason as to why the privilege of drinking should be allowed at a younger age. No one in a position of power is likely to listen to the cries of adolescents that they’re old enough to handle this responsibility when they regularly drink to the point of paralysis. Your best chance to bring about change is to learn when to stop. In case the point at which you should stop is unclear to some of you, it should be before you pass out or have sex with someone you would never ordinarily talk to, whichever happens first.

While they wait, under-agers can take comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Under 21s are likewise not allowed to drink in Fiji, Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka, according to the International Center for Alcohol Policies.

If this provides little consolation, know your limits and drink responsibly. Your plight might harness the attention of those who can create change, and not spending each Sunday morning in the fetal position beside your toilet, intermittently throwing up, is also a lot more enjoyable. The rewards are endless.

— Dunja Nedic is an Australian exchange student. She can be reached at

letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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