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Unformatted text preview: ISSUE 3 Should the U nited States D rinking Age Rem ain at 21? YES: Kenneth P. Moritsugu, from The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007) NO: Judith G. McMullen, from &quot;Underage Drinking: Does Current Policy Make Sense?&quot; Lewis &amp; Clark Law Review (Summer 2006) ISSUE SUMMARY YES: Kenneth Moritsugu, the previous United States Surgeon Gen- eral, maintains that underage drinking is fraught with numerous problems ranging from motor vehicle crashes to homicide and suicide. Underage drinking is also related to unhealthy risk-taking behaviors and poor academic performance. Rather than tolerate underage drinking, more effort should be placed on enforcing un- derage drinking laws. NO: Judith McMullen, a law professor at Marquette University, ar- gues that laws prohibiting underage drinking have been ineffective. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 who do not live at home have opportunities to drink alcohol without parental inter- ference. In addition, this same age group has other legal rights, such as the right to marry, drive a car, or join the military. Enforcement of underage drinking laws, says McMullen, is destined for failure. 4--) 1 O ver 90 percent of high school seniors consume alcohol and a significant percentage of those students engage in binge drinking. There is little doubt that many students drink to excess and that many young people drink alcohol irresponsibly. Regardless of the message that many underage drinkers receive, it is unhealthy, unlawful, and potentially dangerous for young people to drink alcohol, especially in excess. The question revolves around the best way to reduce the harms associated with alcohol use. Will reducing the drinking age make it easier to teach young people to drink responsibly? Or is reducing the drinking age simply capitulating to the realities that young people drink? G 4 G 7 One important question is whether or not young people will respond to a message of responsible alcohol consumption if they are legally allowed to drink. Because it is a recognized fact that the vast majority of people under age 21 drink alcohol, simply telling young people to not drink does not stop that behavior. However, does it make more sense to teach young people how to drink alcohol responsibly so they do not endanger themselves, their friends, or innocent bystanders? The current message, that one should wait until age 21 to drink, is not being heard by the majority of people under that age. On the other hand, will someone be more amenable to being responsible if they are allowed to drink? Will reducing the drinking age result in very young peo- ple driving while under the influence? Will young people engage in less binge drinking?...
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