Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rethinking the legal drinking age

Check out the Amethyst Initiative (h/t Chris Weigant). Like Chris, I was part of the age cohort that was affected by the de facto national policy of mandating 21 as the legal drinking age in the US. That always struck me as just another example of our Puritan heritage haunting us, and as a policy it seems to have been an abysmal failure. Binge drinking seems to have been a problem in the US for a while, but has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple decades. Alcoholic beverages have a sort of "forbidden fruit" quality that makes them extra attractive among traditional-aged college and university students under the current circumstances. I'd much rather lower the drinking age to something around 18 (personally, I'd get rid of the age limits altogether, but that might be too much to expect here), and focus on sensible, nonsensationalized education on the consequences of overdosing on alchohol as well as on the potential consequences of operating any sort of motorized vehicle while drunk - in other words, try a "tainted fruit" approach. Given what I know of some of the attitude and persuasion literature, I think the "tainted fruit" approach would have a more positive impact in reducing binge drinking than what we're doing now. Heck, we might even save a few lives in the process.

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