Contact President Brodhead expressing your opposition
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina
DURHAM – “Misguided” and “dangerous” – that’s what Ronald Ruecker, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, called the recent decision by Duke University president Richard Brodhead and more than 100 other college and university heads to push for lowering the national drinking age from 21 to 18.
“We couldn’t have described it better ourselves,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Buying into what this Amethyst Initiative is purporting – that lowering the drinking age will lessen overindulgence among college students – is the last thing we’d expect from organizations of higher learning. Studies have shown over and over that raising the drinking age to 21 has saved thousands of lives.”
|Take Action: Contact the office of the President of Duke University, asking that he withdraw the name of Duke University from The Amethyst Initiative, which purports to lower the current Minimum Legal Drinking Age from age to 21 to 18.Telephone Number: 919.684.2424
To Send an Email: click here
In fact, more than 25,000 lives have been saved since 1984, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s the year when the federal government enacted the Uniform Drinking Age Act, withholding federal highway funds from states failing to increase their minimum legal drinking age. The law will come up for reauthorization next year, one likely reason that Amethyst Initiative leader John McCardell wants to set the stage for a national debate.
Despite support from a small number of college presidents (just over 100 out of more than 4,000 U.S. campuses), McCardell should see that there is little to debate.
According to a survey released by Nationwide Insurance, 78 percent of adults support 21 as the minimum drinking age and 72 percent think lowering the drinking age would make alcohol more accessible to kids. Nearly half believe it would increase binge drinking among teens. And more than half say they are less likely to vote for a state representative who supports lowering the legal limit.
Those survey results have a strong backing from some three decades of scientific research. Starting in the late 1970s, Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., began studying the effects of increasing the legal drinking age. And more than 50 high-quality studies, by Wagenaar and others, show the law saves lives. Further studies show that having the “21 law” causes those under 21 to drink less and to continue to drink less throughout their 20s.
“The fact is no other alcohol control policy has been so well-studied,” Creech said citing Wagenaar and Traci L. Toomey’s “Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analysis of the Literature from 1960-2000.”
During the early 1970s trends toward lowering the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) started in the U.S., providing many natural experiments. Youth traffic accidents increased after lowering the age. Then between 1984 and 1988, as states raised the MLDA to qualify for highway funds, researchers noted the opposite effect.
Wagenaar and Toomey correctly conclude: “Compared with a wide range of other programs and efforts to reduce drinking among teenagers, increasing the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcohol to 21 appears to have been the most successful effort to date.”
“This small minority of college administrators wants to undo years of success – that defies common sense,” Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) told Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “We need to do all we can to protect the national drinking age – a law that saves the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians across the country each year.”
MADD has been quick to respond to the Amethyst Initiative, joining the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the American Medical Association, the Governors Highway Safety Association and a number of other national organizations to urge the public to hold college presidents accountable, asking them to remove their names from the Amethyst list. MADD has gone further to urge parents to think twice about the safety of campuses where presidents are openly opposing the 21 law.
One thing MADD and Amethyst agree on is that abuse of alcohol is a huge problem on college campuses. More than 40 percent of college students report at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence, and an Associated Press analysis of federal records found that between 1999 and 2005, 157 people, ages 18 to 23, drank themselves to death.
No doubt, many college administrators would welcome a quick fix that allows them to wash their hands of alcohol enforcement issues.
Some like Duke University’s Richard Brodhead say the 21 law “pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks” and preventing administrators from “addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice.”
But, according to the Raleigh News and Observer, UNC President Erskine Bowles sent a memo to chancellors at all 16 UNC-system campuses late last month leaving no question as to where he stands on the issue.
“I’ve seen no scientific evidence that supports the contention that lowering the legal drinking age would reduce binge-drinking or lessen other alcohol-related problems on our college campuses or in society at large,” Bowles wrote, citing data from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, named for his father, Skipper Bowles.
Nonetheless, Amethyst Initiative proponents seem to somehow believe that if alcohol were made more accessible, consumption would decrease. But the editors of the Chicago Tribune are correct in their assessment that these esteemed academic experts have forgotten the lessons of Economics 101 – that legalizing something typically leads to more indulgence, not less.
Further, there is also evidence that colleges that truly want to reduce alcohol use should be taking more steps to limit student access, not opening the door wider. A Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study revealed that colleges that ban alcohol sales on campus fare better than those that don’t, with 29 percent of students at ban schools abstaining compared to only 16 percent at non-ban colleges.
“Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and placing limits on its accessibility is an absolute necessity, while liberalizing alcohol sales never solves anything,” Creech said.
For more details on the issue and an updated list of which college presidents have signed the Amethyst list, see the MADD Web site at www.madd.org.
Take Action: Contact the office of the President of Duke University, asking that he withdraw the name of Duke University from The Amethyst Initiative, which purports to lower the current Minimum Legal Drinking Age from age to 21 to 18.
Telephone Number: 919.684.2424
To Send an Email: click here