Isn't binge drinking just the individual drinker's problem?
The consequences of alcohol use extend far beyond the individual with
alcohol problems, affecting the well-being of others around them and imposing
staggering costs on society as a whole. Consequences of alcohol abuse
include alcohol related fatalities, and injuries, birth defects from fetal
alcohol syndrome, violent crimes and suicide, economic costs of reduced
worker productivity and increased absenteeism, the expenses of treatment
and support, and the incalculable costs in human suffering and premature
What about individual freedom? Don't people have the right to drink
as they please?
Freedom includes freedom from certain pressures as well as the freedom
to do certain things. Students have a right to experience college without
constant pressure to drink, and free of the inconsiderate, insulting,
intimidating, and sometimes even criminal behavior of the minority of
students who engage in irresponsible high-risk drinking. Non-drinkers
deserve the freedom to abstain without stigma. Protecting some freedoms
may appear to impinge on the rights of others. However, we have come to
accept many such limits, such as wearing seatbelts, designated drivers,
and maximum speed limits, because they serve the greater good.
Lowering the drinking age will encourage students to be responsible
consumers. They'll get an idea of their tolerance and learn to drink moderately
in the open, rather than wildly at uncontrolled private parties away from
No evidence exists to indicate that students will learn to drink responsibly
simply because they are able to consume alcohol legally at a younger age.
Countries with lower drinking ages suffer from alcohol-related problems
similar to those in the U.S.
Minors still drink, so age-21 laws clearly don't work.
Age-21 laws work. Young people drink less and less frequently in response.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Commission, MLDA
laws have saved an estimated 17,000 lives since states began implementing
them in 1975, and they've decreased the number of alcohol-related youth
fatalities among drivers by 63% since 1982.
Europe doesn't seem have a big drinking problem, yet over there even
the children drink, and alcohol is treated as a natural part of life without
all the legal fuss.
The world's highest average levels of pure alcohol consumption (1982-1991)
were in France. Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain. Hungary, Switzerland, Italy,
Germany, and Belgium followed in order with per capita consumption well
above the rate in the US. Heavier drinking contributes significantly to
higher death rates. In Italy in 1990, for instance, there were 26.8 deaths
per 100,000 from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis compared to 10.8
in the US.
Since only 10% of the population have an alcohol problem, aren't you
over-reacting? Aren't you just neo-prohibitionist?
The 10% statistic refers only to chronic heavy drinkers. According to
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 76 million
Americans are affected by alcoholism. Most of these problems are preventable,
and prevention of these problems does not require elimination of alcohol.
Our goal is not prohibition, but the creation of an environment
where abstinence is always acceptable, heavy use is discouraged, and high-risk
use is eliminated.
Aren't you promoting censorship when you say you want to ban alcohol
Alcohol advertising is not what concerns us. It is the deliberate deception
and distortion, exclusion of health risk information, promotion of problem
denial, "normalization" and glamorization of heavy drinking, and targeting
of groups at high risk of alcohol problems (such as college students)
that are our concern.
* This section excerpted
from, "Raising More Voices than Mugs: Changing the College Alcohol Environment
Through Media Advocacy" (DHHS/NCADI, 1992)