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SOAPBOX: Facts oppose lowering drinking age

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Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

By Anna Foglia

In response to Maria De La Garma’s June 20 community column regarding lowering the drinking age, I strongly disagree and offer compelling support for my opinion.

A young person’s brain is still developing during the teen years through about age 25. Impulse control is not fully developed, and risk-taking behaviors are heightened under the influence of alcohol. The minimum drinking age of 21 has been credited with reducing both binge drinking and teen pregnancies.

Twenty-four percent of deaths of those in the 18-20 age group are alcohol-related. For those in the 21-to-23 age group, that statistic is 40 percent. One could reasonably expect that if 18-to-20-year-olds were legally allowed to drink, the death rate would increase from 24 percent to 40 percent.

For people ages 18 to 20 in Monterey County, during 2003-07 there were 172 injuries and 14 deaths associated with alcohol consumed by this age group.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for people ages 6 to 33, and about 45 percent of these fatalities are alcohol-related. NHTSA also reports that from 2003 to 2007 the number of deaths for those ages 18 to 20 that have been saved by the underage drinking laws is 4,441 people in the U.S., approximately 900 a year. Which 900 people should we allow to die each year so that, as De La Garma contends, this throwback to Prohibition and blackmail of states can be rectified?

Reducing the age limit is seriously misguided, and I am appalled that some individuals representing our university campuses would support such poor judgment. Perhaps they would like to see the spotlight removed from all the frat parties that go so terribly wrong.

Many people believe that because they drank in their teens and turned out OK that lowering the drinking age is justified. However, studies show the earlier a person begins drinking the more likely they are to develop drinking patterns leading to abuse and dependency.

I recommend everyone interested in this subject read “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff. This is a parent’s agonizing account of his son’s destruction by methamphetamine abuse which started with alcohol use. Our youth do not begin with hard drugs. They begin with alcohol and marijuana, so-called gateway drugs that every meth, cocaine and heroine user started with as the drug of choice, usually in middle school or high school. Alcohol that kids see all of the adults freely indulge in, alcohol that you want our government to condone for use at a younger age.

No way. Bad idea.